Educator's past questioned with unorthodox discipline blamed in early exit, turmoil at old schools 

click to enlarge Esther Adames-Jimenez - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Esther Adames-Jimenez

A new San Francisco Unified School District administrator allegedly used unorthodox disciplinary methods in previous jobs as a principal in Boston and suburban Atlanta, leading to a successful lawsuit in one instance and her resignation in the other.

Esther Adames, formerly known as Esther Adames-Jimenez, was accused in the first case of punishing a 4-year-old who had bitten his peers by ordering them to bite him back, an allegation that she denied. In the second incident, Adames admitted forcing a boy to shock himself with a novelty pen he had brought to school.

In San Francisco, Adames will be an executive director in the district’s early education department. Serving just below the department’s chief, Adames will oversee staff and develop policies for the district’s preschools, but won’t routinely interact with students.

School district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said Adames was hired because she has led a high-quality early education center and turned around a low-performing elementary school.

But according to newspaper accounts, Adames’ tenure at those schools was marred by scandals that eventually resulted in her resignation as principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Gwinnett County, Ga.

Her trouble began in 1999, when she was principal at the East Boston Early Education Center. According to accounts in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, she was accused of punishing a 4-year-old boy who had bitten his classmates by having them bite him back. Adames denied the incident, and while the Boston Public Schools cleared her of any wrongdoing after a brief suspension, she later settled a lawsuit with the child’s family.

A spokesman for Boston Public Schools said he could not comment about personnel matters.

In 2008, when she was a principal at Beaver Ridge in Norcross, Ga., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Adames received a warning from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for irregularities surrounding standardized tests. According to the newspaper, Adames was accused of causing a security breach when she lost an examiner’s manual during a test.

According to the newspaper, Adames was accused of causing a security breach when she lost an examiner’s manual during a test.

The novelty pen incident arose one year later. According to news coverage, many parents supported the principal, who was credited with raising test scores and closing the school’s achievement gap between ethnic groups. However, in light of the accusation school officials decided not to renew her contract, and Adames resigned.

According to documents on the San Francisco Unified School District’s website, Adames has served in various capacities in the district since leaving Georgia, including as an executive director in the Mission Superintendent’s Zone and as a literacy specialist at Sanchez Elementary School.

Blythe, the SFUSD spokeswoman, said the district was aware of the previous allegations, which were brought to school officials’ attention by anonymous emails. She said district officials had found no evidence of misconduct during Adames’ time at Sanchez. She added that district officials investigated the previous incidents and concluded that the media portrayals were inaccurate.

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Amy Crawford

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Sunday, Sep 14, 2014

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