Jefferson Middle School principal resigns following leave of absence

Tequila Kurth
Via Thomas Jefferson Middle School website

MADISON, Wis. — Jefferson Middle School’s principal has resigned after taking an extended leave of absence.

Dr. Tequila Kurth sent out a personal statement to the Jefferson community Friday afternoon.

The news comes after a number of incidents during this school year, with the most recent taking place last month, when Madison police say a student was taken to the hospital with a concussion after being punched by a classmate.

Kurth said in her statement that the leave of absence was unrelated to the incident, as she began a Family Medical Leave for health issues related to the “campaign of harassment” she was subjected to. Kurth said she was not in school at all that week and was unaware of the concussion incident.

“A Principal is the public face of a school,” said Kurth. “A Principal has a delicate task of balancing the interests of students, parents, administration, the school district and teachers. As the face of a school, the Principal is also a lightning-rod for criticism. However, it is important to understand that there are policies and procedures in place with respect to things such as discipline of students and teachers and hiring faculty and staff. A Principal is not the lone decision-maker on such issues. Fairly or not, I have been that lightning-rod at Jefferson over the past few months.”

Kurth said that “some people used an incident that occurred on December 3, 2019, to attack my leadership, integrity and honesty. On the school bus ride home that afternoon, a student shot a peer with a BB gun.”

Kurth said an email that was sent to Jefferson families in her name regarding the incident contained a sentence that accused her of lying. Kurth said she did not write the message and did not approve it before it was sent out.

Kurth said she was travelling out of town to a family member’s funeral the same day the issue was being addressed and was with family for all of the following day.

Kurth added that “one or more persons hiding behind anonymity” released records of the student involved in the pellet gun shooting. She said these people “have been engaging in a campaign of harassment targeting me, sending me scores of bizarre, threatening e-mails.”

“It has gotten to the point where, for months, I have legitimately feared for my safety,” said Kurth. “I thank the parents and community partners who spoke the truth on my behalf. To the students at Jefferson, you are my heart. I miss you and want the best for you. To the staff at Jefferson who wanted to see change, I champion for you. It will happen. To those district staff who truly supported me throughout this ordeal and during those challenges that occurred in my first year, I appreciate you and will always remember you. You are on my list of heroes.”

MMSD released their own statement Friday.

“We appreciate Dr. Kurth’s work in service of the Jefferson community, and we wish her well in her future endeavors,” said Madison Metropolitan School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Jane Belmore.