This A-rated school is Palm Beach County’s most unhappy campus

Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

This school’s troubles show why high test scores aren’t everything.

It’s a high-achieving school, with an A grade from the state and an address in a prosperous zip code.

But if any school demonstrates the adage that test scores aren’t everything, it’s this Jupiter campus.

Despite its high marks, Jerry Thomas Elementary last year had the unhappiest teachers and staff in Palm Beach County, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of anonymous employee survey results.

That puts it at the very bottom of the 165 schools in The Post’s teacher-satisfaction database.

Teachers and staff gave Jerry Thomas low marks for school climate, leadership and for setting high expectations. Their responses to some questions about the campus were truly eye-popping.

Asked whether teachers generally respect their school administrators, just 18 percent of those surveyed agreed.

Asked whether there is a great deal of trust among teachers and school administrators, only 21 percent agreed.

How happy are teachers at your school? See for yourself

See the mood at a Palm Beach County public school on The Palm Beach Post’s teacher survey database.

At Jerry Thomas, teachers’ low opinion of their own school is particularly striking considering how well it fares academically.

In 18 years, the school’s grade has never been lower than a B, and it has had an A rating for 14 of the past 16 years, including this past year.

So what’s going on?

Despite the school’s high performance, this year the school’s teachers were pitted in a long-brewing conflict with Principal Michael Rieckenberg and Assistant Principal Shernett Alexander.

An official familiar with the happenings at the school told The Post that many teachers clashed with Alexander and faulted Rieckenberg for failing to resolve the conflict.

“This past school year it went from worse to frickin’ horrible,” said the official, who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly about the school’s issues. “That questionnaire is reflective of what was happening.”

‘He didn’t lean in and try to solve the problem’

Former Principal Michael Rieckenberg (Source: Palm Beach County School District)

After more than a year of complaints, the issue finally got the attention of school district administrators. Rieckenberg ended up resigning and Alexander was transferred to a position in the school district’s central office, a district spokeswoman said.

Rieckenberg, who took charge of the school in August 2015, appears to have deactivated the personal email address and phone number that he registered with the school district. Multiple efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. Alexander did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment.

In an interview, Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa acknowledged the school’s longstanding tensions and said the survey results helped to underscore the problem.

The source of tension, initially, was “the AP (assistant principal) and her style,” Avossa said. But, he said, teachers eventually blamed Rieckenberg for not doing enough to resolve the issue.

“He didn’t lean in and try to solve the problem and get her to back off,” Avossa said. “It did start off with her, but it did ultimately hurt the whole administrative team.”

To calm the tensions, the school district has tapped Jeff Eassa, the principal of Woodlands Middle School, to step in and address the problem.

In an interview, Eassa said he couldn’t speak to what happened in the past school year, but he vowed to try to stabilize things when the new school year begins.

“I’ve seen the results and I’m aware of the results, and I’m crafting a very specific plan to have improved results for next year,” he said.

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