Cynthia Harris to take over Leon Dudley's duties

Five days after students walked off campus to protest his closed-campus policy, Portland Public Schools officials announced beleaguered Jefferson High School principal Leon Dudley will be on leave through the end of the school year, effective April 9.

Portland Public Schools superintendent Vicki Phillips sent a memo announcing the change to the Jefferson community dated April 10, not giving any further explanation.

School district spokesman Matt Shelby said Tuesday that he did not know the circumstances of Dudley's leave.

"It's a personnel issue, and we're respecting his privacy," Shelby said.

In the memo, Phillips said Cynthia Harris, area director for the Jefferson and Wilson clusters, will serve as interim principal at Jefferson for the remainder of the year.

Dudley, recruited by a national search to reform the struggling school, has seen his leadership tested since his arrival last fall from Dallas, Texas. Last month, students repeatedly booed Dudley off the stage at an assembly, and students walked off campus April 5 in response to a new restricted lunch period policy.

Before Dudley came to Portland, there were red flags in his past that caused some to be wary but others - including Superintendent Vicki Phillips - to champion his qualifications and give him the benefit of the doubt.

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