Jeff Wagonseller’s tenure as principal at Cabrillo High School, which has been a center of concern for nearly six months, is officially coming to an end.
In a special meeting held early Friday morning, the Lompoc Unified School District board of education voted 4-0 to accept Wagonseller’s resignation. Board member Jeff Carlovsky was absent from the meeting, at which the other board members discussed the situation privately in closed session. The only information revealed publicly was that Wagonseller’s resignation, effective June 30, had been accepted.
With Friday’s action, Wagonseller, who has been on paid administrative leave since September, will remain on paid leave for the rest of the 2017-18 school year. Sue Pettis, who took over Wagonseller’s post when he was placed on administrative leave Sept. 14, is expected to continue serving as principal at Cabrillo through the end of the school year. The district has already begun advertising the position in an effort to find Wagonseller's full-time replacement.
While Friday’s move provided some clarity regarding the future of the Cabrillo High School administration, a lot of questions still remain. Perhaps most pressing is what exactly led to Wagonseller being placed on administrative leave and ultimately resigning, a topic that neither the LUSD administration nor Wagonseller has publicly addressed.
When contacted Friday for comment, Wagonseller responded via email: “I appreciate the opportunity to make a statement, but at this time I am not legally able to do so.”
The decision to put Wagonseller on paid leave just a month into the school year has generated a significant amount of controversy around the campus.
On Sept. 25, less than two weeks after Wagonseller was placed on leave, about 150 Cabrillo High students staged a walkout and rally in support of Wagonseller, who had served as principal at the school since the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Students at that rally said they wanted to show love and support for Wagonseller, even if they didn’t know all the details surrounding what appeared to be a disciplinary action from the district.
Meanwhile, some parents and other community members expressed frustration, both publicly and privately, upon learning about some aspects of Wagonseller’s past, and some questioned whether he should have been hired by LUSD in the first place.
Prior to arriving in Lompoc, Wagonseller was a coach and educator at Bishop Gorman High School, a private Catholic campus in Las Vegas, Nevada. He reportedly resigned from that position in 2000 amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a former student.
While the Las Vegas allegations did not lead to criminal charges, Wagonseller was named as one of five defendants — alongside the school, Clerics of St. Viator, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Las Vegas and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nevada — in a civil suit filed April 13, 2000, by a female former student at the school. That suit, according to Nevada court records, was dismissed with prejudice on Aug. 2, 2001.
At least one parent of a Cabrillo student went to multiple LUSD board meetings after Wagonseller was placed on leave to implore the board and district administrators to fire Wagonseller and put protocols in place to prevent future hires with histories involving sexual misconduct.
No board member or administrator within LUSD ever responded publicly to that parent’s concerns.
The only other comment from Wagonseller since being placed on leave was a short, though optimistic statement provided to Lee Central Coast News by Leslie Wagonseller, an IT director in the district and Jeff’s wife, following the Sept. 26 LUSD board meeting.
That statement read: “Jeff continues to appreciate the support of the students, faculty and community. He is working with the district to resolve this personnel matter and hopes to be back at Cabrillo as soon as possible.”