Karen Lunceford has been named as a temporary replacement for Mike Lister, the Bayfield Middle School principal arrested last week after accusations he harassed staff members.
Lunceford, a former assistant principal of Miller Middle School, started Wednesday and will stand in as the school’s principal “on a temporary basis,” according to a letter sent to parents by Troy Zabel, superintendent for the Bayfield School District.
A staff meeting and a school assembly was held Wednesday to make the district’s decision known to students and faculty, Zabel said.
“She was introduced to all of the faculty and students,” Zabel said. “She’s up and going in her position.”
Lunceford also is a former literacy consultant for Bayfield Elementary School.
“Ms. Lunceford has an administrative license,” Zabel wrote in the letter. “She is well qualified to lead Bayfield Middle School.”
Lister, 53, was arrested Friday on suspicion of two misdemeanors: false imprisonment and menacing.
The 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed formal charges for menacing and false imprisonment this week in La Plata County Court. Lister’s next court appearance is a pretrial conference set for 9 a.m. April 17.
Zabel’s letter to parents notes that an article in Monday’s Durango Herald incorrectly described the accusations Lister is facing. Lister is not suspected of confining another person for 12 hours or longer. Rather, the charges stem from a recent incident involving school counselor Tara Gray.
According to an arrest affidavit filed in the case, Lister confronted Gray about an email she sent to staff.
The affidavit said Lister barged into her office, screamed at her and refused to let her leave for about 20 minutes. He followed her to the parking lot and told another person with knowledge of the incident not to tell anyone or face “big trouble.”
Gray said Lister has harassed and intimidated her for about 18 months, ever since she disobeyed his orders and reported an unlawful sexual contact involving a third party.
Lister is free on $500 bail and remains on administrative leave from his position.
A phone call to Lister on Wednesday was not returned.
In the letter, Zabel assured parents that the situation is under control.
“We have an outstanding staff at Bayfield Middle School who is committed to providing a high quality learning environment for all of our kids every day,” he wrote.