When the principal of Technology High School, Bruce Mims, stepped down last month, he cited "personal and professional reasons." He didn't mention that he'd been caught calling himself a Navy SEAL.
Mims led Technology High, the Rohnert Park magnet school with the highest academic scores in Sonoma County, since the fall of 2011. He resigned in early October.
On Thursday, Mims acknowledged in a televised interview with ABC7 that he'd told Tech High's teachers, students and parents he had been a member of the Navy's elite fighting crew when in fact he never was. A Tech High parent, George Berg, brought the issue to the station's attention.
Mims on Friday told The Press Democrat that he agreed to the interview because he felt that, as a role model, he needed to explain himself.
"I understood that I needed to accept responsibility for my shortcomings," he said.
Mims said he joined the Navy in the late 1980s with the dream of becoming an elite fighter. But, he said, he was honorably discharged after about a year because officials found out he was gay. He called that the "darkest, deepest disappointment" of his life.
"Everything that happened in terms of my embellishment is to make up for the thing in my life that was taken away from me," he said. He emphasized that he never described himself as a SEAL on resumes.
This fall, Berg became suspicious about Mims' past after a dispute over a book his son had been assigned. Berg told the TV station that when he found Mims had lied about his past, he approached Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District Superintendent Robert Haley.
"Dr. Mims and I did have conversations about his status as a SEAL," Haley said, though he would not specify when those conversations occurred. He said Mims, not the district, requested to step down for personal and professional reasons.
Mims acknowledged that the issues with his past contributed to his decision to resign. But, he said, there were other factors, like his health — he said he had a large tumor removed from his neck last week and is still recovering. He also wants to spend more time with his family, he said.
The district originally agreed Mims would work on "special projects" and continue to collect a salary of $96,153 through June. But on Oct. 15, Mims' employment status changed. He now is on extended medical leave and is no longer providing services to the district, Haley said.
Haley added that he's spoken with a number of parents and students about the situation.
"What one can take from this is that integrity is an important concept to learn and understand," Haley said. "The role of a principal is an important one, and there is a need for a high level of trust."
Mims said he had not discussed the issue with parents or students since he resigned.
"You can look ahead or you can look behind, but what's done is done," he said. "I don't think I'm a villain. I'm human. I regret what I did and I regret anyone I disappointed."
During Mims' tenure, enrollment at Technology High School grew from about 200 students to nearly 300 and the school's state Academic Performance Index Score were the highest in the county.