Click photo to enlarge
Christopher Nugent, who was appointed Thursday as principal of Mt. Diablo Elementary in Clayton by Mt. Diablo school district trustees, was arrested in February 2008 in Nashville, Tenn. on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. He was subsequently convicted by implied consent, after refusing to take a blood or breath test. Nugent reportedly resigned from the principal position after links to news reports in Tennessee about the DUI and a breach of student security appeared on local blogs. (Nashville Police Department)

CONCORD -- A principal hired to helm Mt. Diablo Elementary this fall has withdrawn his name from consideration for the position after a problem at a previous school job in Tennessee was exposed on local blogs over the weekend.

Christopher Nugent, who was appointed Thursday as principal of the Clayton school, most recently worked as vice principal of Joseph Sims Elementary in Elk Grove.

Prior to that, he was a testing specialist in the Williamson County school district in Franklin, Tenn., but he resigned in 2008 after he inadvertently posted the Social Security numbers of more than 5,000 students online, according to media reports. The breach was a violation of the federal Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects students' privacy, Williamson County Superintendent Rebecca Sharber told local television station WKRN at the time.

In an unrelated incident, Nugent was arrested in Nashville, Tenn., in February 2008 on suspicion of driving under the influence and charged with resisting arrest for fighting twice with officers, according to Nashville police. He was convicted of DUI, said Rachel Vance, a department spokeswoman.

Mt. Diablo district Superintendent Steven Lawrence released a written statement late Tuesday saying the district followed standard protocols in its interview process, including reference and background checks, yet did not discover the negative information that was readily available in a simple Internet search.

"In the future, the district will augment our processes with a comprehensive Internet investigation before candidate recommendations going to the Board of Education," Lawrence wrote.

Lawrence did not return a phone request for more information and Nugent could not be reached.

"The district will immediately conduct another search for a principal for Mt. Diablo Elementary and will work closely with that community to find a suitable candidate," Lawrence's statement said.

On Monday, the MDUSD Parents blog posted a message attributed to trustee Gary Eberhart saying that Nugent had resigned and would not work in any district school. Eberhart did not respond to interview requests.

When Lawrence recommended Nugent to the board last week, along with candidates for four other administrative appointments, trustee Dick Allen said he would have preferred to have received the names of the potential appointees before the meeting, so he could research them. Still, trustees unanimously approved all five appointments, without receiving résumés or specific information about their work experience or education.

At the meeting, Eberhart said the job of appointing administrators is a "key decision" the board makes and he denied Lawrence's request for authority to make future appointments without board approval.

Lawrence told trustees that Nugent had experience in Tennessee and California, working as a "co-administrator" in Elk Grove and previously as a middle school administrator and an elementary principal.

Community members who later typed Nugent's name into an Internet search engine found numerous news reports about his security breach in Tennessee. They then posted links on local blogs, along with questions about the district's hiring procedures.

School officials in Elk Grove declined to comment Tuesday, but a Williamson County district spokeswoman said Nugent worked as an elementary principal there from 2002 to 2007, before transferring to the central office as a testing administrator.

"Chris was very good with data and explaining data to principals so they could know how to break it down and do a better job with instruction," spokeswoman Carol Birdsong said. Nugent was not prosecuted for the security breach, she said, and subsequent checks determined that no students' identities had been stolen as a result of the leak.

Lawrence, who took over leadership of the district in February, has orchestrated a major administrative shake up in the past few months. About a dozen Mt. Diablo Elementary parents met June 30 with Lawrence and Julie Braun-Martin, who was promoted July 1 to assistant director for personnel. The parents said they wanted a principal who was a strong leader and could strengthen communications in the community.

Braun-Martin said the district would match parents' needs with a principal by July or early August. Nugent was appointed the next day.

Trustees expect to make several more administrative appointments before school starts in August.