Attorney: Complaint against cellphone-loving teacher may end tenure of Lincoln High principal

Esther Omogbehin asked to be placed on leave

SAN DIEGO - A student's complaint about a cellphone-chatting teacher is at the center of an incident that may end with an embattled principal leaving her job.

Lincoln High School Principal Esther Omogbehin was placed on paid leave at her request, according to Omogbehin's attorney, Dan Gilleon. The action was also confirmed by a San Diego Unified School District spokesperson.

During class in late March, Lincoln High senior Angel Ramirez said his teacher missed the beginning of class.

"When he did come in, he was on his phone and I do recall asking a question about work I missed and him telling me to be quiet," said Ramirez.

Ramirez said the scene was a familiar one.

"It's a daily thing. He's on his phone 30 minutes into class," said Ramirez.

Later in the class, Ramirez snapped a photo of a transparency at the front of the class with his cellphone to help with some makeup work, prompting the teacher to ask for the phone.

Frustrated, Ramirez responded with this.

"I said, 'You're always on the phone, I am trying to get an education,'" said Ramirez.

Ramirez complained to Omogbehin, who said she asked the teacher for his side of the story.

"Instead of giving his side of the story, he filed a grievance against her," said Gilleon.

The grievance has prompted the principal to ask for time off to consider her future.

In 2012, Team 10 talked to her when a district probe cleared her after a student claimed Omogbehin threatened her.

Omogbehin said then she had become the target of those who didn't like her philosophy of holding teachers accountable -- a style that's led to rising test scores.

"Math scores and language art scores have increased. SAT scores have increased from an average of 1240 to 1450," said Gilleon.

Since May 2012, Gilleon said 12 grievances have been filed by teachers in what he calls an orchestrated campaign by the teachers union to force her out.

"It's been a long and tough battle for her. She's trying to decide if she should stay or perhaps transfer somewhere else," said Gilleon.

In a statement, the San Diego Education Association said:

"There have been no efforts to remove Ms. Omogbehin. It should be said she is a divisive leader that made no effort to reach out to those who had difficulty with her management style and leaked information about teachers to members of the community."

Gilleon said his client communicates openly to the public and parents about important matters and has the support of a vast majority of teachers.

The SDEA has also told Team 10 the Lincoln High teacher accused of talking on his phone filed the grievance because Omogbehin wouldn't give him a copy of the complaint against him.

"Not true. She couldn't immediately access it because it was Spring Break ... She asked her vice principal to find it and give it to the teacher. The teacher read the statement," said Gilleon.

Gilleon said Omogbehin is weighing legal action against the SDEA.

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