ORINDA -- The at-times controversial principal of an Orinda elementary school has announced her retirement from the school district, according to the district's superintendent.

In an email announcement sent June 25 to Wagner Ranch Elementary School parents and staff members, Orinda Union School District Superintendent Joe Jaconette said Principal Janis Arnerich is set to leave the school effective Aug. 1 after serving for 10 years.

In her resignation letter, Arnerich praised the school community and noted the campus's accomplishments during her 10 years there.

"I am very proud to have been a part of this community and to share with them in this wonderful journey to guide our students towards (sic) meaningful lives and successful futures," Arnerich wrote.

During Arnerich's tenure, the campus has received two California Distinguished School awards, consistently maintained high API scores and implemented new educational technology including iPads, laptops and Smart Boards.

But Arnerich's tenure at Wagner Ranch was also tinged with controversy. In 2011, a group of parents asked the school board to investigate Wagner Ranch's above-average suspension rate and disciplinary actions that parents said were often hastily meted out, discriminatory and designed to humiliate students.

According to data from the Department of Education, 13 suspensions were reported at Wagner Ranch during the 2009-10 school year, compared with four at the district's three other elementary schools combined during that period.


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Arnerich's supporters said at the time that she was the victim of a targeted attack, and school board trustees later concluded that her disciplinary policies were satisfactory.

This past April, the school board -- in a 3-2 vote -- declined to hear a complaint lodged against Arnerich by a Wagner Ranch teacher. That decision followed the earlier dismissal of the teacher's complaint by Jaconette.

School board trustee Sarah Butler -- who along with trustee Tyson Krumholz had voted in April to hear the complaint -- said she did not know any details about Arnerich's retirement.

Butler said she is aware the teacher involved in the April complaint had since filed another complaint alleging "further retaliation," and that "the district has been evaluating that."

Former Wagner Ranch parent Bekki Gilbert, who had been active in bringing attention to some of the past complaints, said she was surprised by what she called Arnerich's "unanticipated" departure.

"My perspective has always been that there were certainly parents and families and children who were well served by Mrs. Arnerich and her leadership, but that there was also a group that wasn't well served," Gilbert said.

Arnerich didn't return calls this week seeking comment. Jaconette said the process to recruit a new principal will take place this summer with input from Wagner Ranch staff and parents.