Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ballard High School Principal put on Administrative Leave

Readers, I have been reading many articles and hearing from many parents about issues at Ballard High School around the leadership of principal Kevin Wynkoop.

Important to note is that on Monday, December 1, the administration is having a meeting for students about the issue of sexual harassment. This via Rob Gannon, Deputy Superintendent. Wynkoop is not mentioned. 

Q & A Session for BHS Students from 3-4 in the PAC. District email sent to families. 

This special Q&A session is being offered for Ballard High School students after school on Wednesday, December 1, 2021, from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.

The information session will be facilitated by staff from the SPS Title IX Office and will include opportunities for students to ask questions. 

A similar virtual informational opportunity is being developed for all SPS students, parents, and families later in December. More details will be forthcoming soon.

There is also a PTSA meeting the next night.

If any BHS student is reading this, PLEASE take notes and let me know what you think (sss.westbrook@gmail.com).  I know from reading the Ballard High Talisman, the student newspaper, that it is a good one and I am sad to see there are no issues available to read online. I'm sure there has been a big discussion of these issues there.

My understanding is that Wynkoop, like Principal Martin Floe at Ingraham High, is an alum of Ballard High with long-standing ties to the community. It certainly points to a loyalty to a school that runs deep. (I note that former principal Ted Howard at Garfield High was also a grad there as well but we can come back to him later in another post. Again, the problem of principals in SPS has been and continues to be a problem.)

Also, important to state - out loud - is that issues of sexual harassment are real and have been around as long as there has been public high schools. That there is almost nothing being done about it is troubling. 

Issues of sexual assault are CRIMES. The district does say that students should call SPD as well as tell "a trusted adult." I'm not sure if they mean an adult at a school or outside the school.  I do think it a pretty hard thing to tell a 15-year old girl to dial 911 and I'd bet if she did, some BHS adult would say, "Why didn't you come to us first?" 

Issues around racism are difficult because, well, intent. But we are told that there are racial equity teams in almost every school. That teachers have had professional development around race and equity.  

This issue is also tough because of unions (teachers) and PASS (the principals' group). The district, unless there's physical injury, cannot just remove a teacher or principal. Yes, I know Wynkoop is out but that is temporary. (But if you read some comments from outside of BHS, it appears that nothing will satisfy but his head on a stick.) 

I believe the district does not move swiftly in these cases for fear of being sued by a teacher or principal especially since issues of discipline are in contracts the district has signed with these staff members. I know this is a hard thing to tell students but that's why you see careful wording and dragging of feet. 

 It appears in the current case the teacher seems to have chosen badly for this assignment. And then, as is being reported, an investigation said Wynkoop "retaliated" against the student by removing him from the class. It is unclear to me if, at any time, the change was explained to the student. 

However, Ballard High seems to have a growing problem with issues of race and also of sexual harassment/assault not being addressed. More to the point, that students do not see actual concern, real action and do not feel safe. This is unacceptable and it appears this has been going on for at least five years. 

There also seems to be a tension between parents who are, for the most part, fine with Wynkoop's leadership. It was pointed out to me that it could be likely that their students are not experiencing the unease of race issues or sexual harassment issues. 

For those students experiencing those issues, it appears that adults that they should be able to go to for help, adults that should be speaking clearly with one voice on the stand of the school on issues, are not. 

I found two Change.org petitions seemingly from BHS students at Change.org.

#1  - unclear to me when this was posted but maybe a year ago. A notable quote that is troubling:

I’d like to pull a quote from January’s edition of the Talisman, where an anonymous person felt that she couldn’t talk to her friends about what had happened. “We weren’t allowed to tell anyone, because if anyone we told tried to fight him, we would get suspended, not the person who fought him, and not him.” You did not deny this, to quote yourself- “No matter what other discipline is taking place, if emotions stay heightened that doesn’t allow for things to calm down, for people to move on. We can’t make things better for both of you unless you agree to that situation.” I’m not entirely certain the school administration is aware what this does to victims.

No administrator, in the midst of an issue, should use the phrase "move on."  


From my own (long-ago) experience, high school teachers have a lot of on their plate. They seem to very much pick and choose their own issues. One example I recall is at Roosevelt many students would buy food for lunch and sit in the halls eating (which technically was not allowed). There were many other places to sit and eat so students did have choices. However, some teachers enforced this and others ignored it. And so, after lunch, many halls had food waste and trash clutter which makes for more work for custodians and maybe a dangerous situation if someone would slip and fall.

What it appears we are looking at is:

- The issue of a student who raised a concern about racism in a class assignment who was then moved to a different classroom. An investigation says Wynkoop "retaliated" against this student for speaking out by moving him.

It took the district eight months to reach a conclusion. In September, a 36-page investigation report found Wynkoop “engaged in a retaliatory action” when he transferred Souza-Ponce to another class, which is a violation of board policies.

As for the other charges, the investigation did not find Olsen’s curriculum was “overtly racist.” After parents Ponce de Souza and Souza appealed that decision, district investigators further found that Olsen and Wynkoop created a “hostile school environment” and violated the district’s policy on harassment, intimidation and bullying “by engaging in conduct that substantially interfered” with Souza-Ponce’s education.

And in classic SPS style:

Seattle Schools officials did not find Souza-Ponce was discriminated against because the appeal didn’t “allege facts that the actions were taken against your son because of his race.”

“So FYI, people of color in Seattle — if you file for discrimination, make sure to include that it is because of your race,” Ponce de Souza said.

- The other issue is ongoing frustration and fear for some students around issues of sexual harassment and assault. Again, the latter is tough because unless the police arrest a student on the charge, I'm not sure the district can legally kick a student out based on an accusation. 

However, you'd think there might be some way to at least not keep students involved in the same classes. (I'm not sure how a school could prevent one student from accidentally seeing another in the hallway.) 

It seems like the students are just not feeling heard and are not seeing steps in place that make them feel protected. 


From a first-hand source:

Ballard HS Principal Wynkoop on admin leave effective immediately.

Dr. Williams, current AP, is “interim Principal”. Report from BHS staff at emergency faculty meeting right now.


juicygoofy said...

A very vague letter came from SPS at 4:30pm Thursday advising of the Principal's leave and the newest assistant principal, Dr. Joseph Williams serving as "Acting Principal for the duration of Principal Wynkoop's leave." It is not clear if the leave is temporary or permanent. On the Friends of Ballard High Facebook page, one post reads: "I think staff members are afraid of saying anything. We don't feel safe."

Anonymous said...

Seattle Times published this op-ed piece but did not feed it on Twitter, for some reason.


I don't see consistent standards to measure racism across the system at Seattle Public Schools.
For example, no one has been placed on administrative leave if instruction qualities & quantities were significantly reduced, either due to admins incompetence at logistics while hoarding funds in bank, or/and because teachers collectively used their privileges to underperform at any time, any level, any cost.
Those actions have been always far more detrimental to the disadvantaged, a category of us who had any shade of skins in the game and were shortchanged.

It'd be helpful if the Board & the Execs were able to lead by example (of being accountable). Instead, they go on proving impunity! They showed us how dysfunctional this centralized system of "free" education can be.

Public Racists

Anonymous said...

Zoiks! Why? Was he offered up as a human sacrifice to appease SJW gods? Will his son (if he has one) be anointed successor in the dynasty at BHS? Seriously now, he’s never had an experience outside of BHS. And who will leave messages on the phone “It’s always great to be a beaver?”


Seattle Local said...

Why? I know there have been some issues there, but I thought they were resolved/being handled.

Unknown said...

In true SPS fashion, an email titled "Ballard High School Community Update" came at 4:30pm Wednesday before a long holiday weekend. I ignored it, until a friend relayed the info this morning. My daughter - a sophomore at BHS and directly impacted by this "update" - had absolutely no idea when I asked her.

There is no information in the email about the reason, context, or length of leave. My daughter does not know who Dr. Williams is; I don't believe he's been at BHS very long.

I find it fascinating that the recent Times headline that reported on Directors Hampson and DeWolf read: "2 Seattle School Board members violated policy on harassment and bullying, investigation finds," while the headline on Principal Wynkoop read: "Ballard High principal retaliated against student for questioning whether assignment was racist, investigation finds." Seems the separate investigations (for which the reports I'm unable to find) came to the same conclusion of violating policy.

Cynthia K said...

Dr. Williams is new-he started at Ballard last year. Yes, Wynkoop has had very little experience outside of BHS.

Sunlight Needed said...

The current Seattle Times Education reporter (Monica Valez) is awful. Valez should have included a link to HIB investigations related to DeWolf/ Hampson and Ballard High School incident. Without seeing entire report, we really don't know the entire story.

There are plenty of awful principals that should have gotten fired. Why is the BHS principal being singled out?

I understand BHS's Assistant Principal is new...not exactly the best thing for a comprehensive high school with a large number of students during a pandemic.

Fomer Teacher said...

I'm not surprised that the district made the announcement at the end of the day before a 4 day break. I am familiar with school and district (more than 20n years) and I am basing this on my institutional knowledge. I also understand that people would like to know more details, but I'm assuming that there are limits to what can be said about an employee's contract. That being said, I would guess that Wynkoop will be out until at least the end of the semester. I also think the issue is not only the racial incident, but the concern with the response to recent sexual assaults. Dr. Williams is new to Ballard-he started last fall. He is also African-American. The other 2 assistant principals are white women, one has been at Ballard for more than 10 years and the other, about 5. I don't know how the decision was made to elevate Dr. Williams, but I think it will be a challenge for him. I wish him luck. Wynkoop has really not had much experience outside of Ballard, and I think that may be part of the issue-he has a narrow world view. The staff at Ballard are overwhelmed (as are most teachers), distrustful of the admin and concerned as to what this all means for the school.

Former Teacher said...

I am very familair with Ballard and the district (more than 20 years). Basing my comments on this, I believe that Wynkoop will be out until at least the end of the semester. Dr. Williams, an African-American male, started at Ballard last fell. The other 2 assistant principals are white women, who have been at BHS for about 10 years and about 5. I don't know how the decision was made to elevate Dr. Williams, but I wish him luck. I think it is not only the racial incident, but concerns over the handling of sexual assault, that led to Wynkoop's leave. He has not spent any time at all outside of Ballard and I believe that narrow world view has contributed to these issues. Many staff members are demoralized and distrustful of the admin.

Anonymous said...

The news this past week also reported on several Eastside high schools Newport, Sammamish and a third, in which students are rallying in large groups and protesting administration handling/resolving of sexual assault issues. There have been similar complaints by students at BHS in recent weeks similar complaint about wanting more accountability by "administration". My opinion of this (so far) is principal Wynkoop seems a bit of a figure head of sorts caught up in a student movement. The principal sent communications to parents on the subject and about a forum, but students are still disgruntled as he did not send emails to them specifically. There is a poorly written article today in the Seattle Times making some assumptions. While it does state the district has not released any information, it makes assumptions, while omitting any mention of the recent sexual assault related activism. It also contains inaccurate information, without context, about the situation with the teacher.

So while people can guess why principal Wynkoop is on leave, the district nor principal Wynkoop released this information to the press. I am also wondering why a new male assistant principal just appointed to the school is being "elevated" into an interim position, over two women who have been at the school for 5 and 10 years. IMO as a parent principal Wynkoop has been a great principal. He is not perfect, but who is, and he tries his best in his position. Managing the school during a very difficult situation this past year and a half with online learning and Covid. It seems to me his action last winter was intended to protect both the well intentioned teacher who was "walking on eggshells" and the student.

BHS parent.

Legal IssuesMatter said...

Anyone that follows the SPS Community page understands that there a few individuals that would settle for nothing less than placing Principal Wynkoop's head on a pike. No room for errors for this group. No room for growth and learning from this group, either.

As BHS parent points out, sexual assaults are nothing new and they are widespread. Thus far, the district has been silent on laying- out legal issues related to a very complicated issue. While the entire issue hasn't been made public, it appears Wynkoop is being singled-out.

It is quite easy to do a simple Google Search to understand that there have been many issues of sexual misconduct- including a $700K settlement agreement at Garfield High School related to a se Yet, no one called for the principal's head.

An individual on this thread laments Wynkoop's time at Ballard High School. However, it is important to note Wynkoop's undeniable commitment to the community. Wynkoop generally spends 12 hours- each and every day- within the building.

High schools are very complex with a variety of issues, dynamics etc.

Anonymous said...

To emphasize yesterday's Seattle Times article ommitted mention of sexual assault incidents. But like the Eastside high schools, there have been student led protests calling for more accountability, better handling of situations from SPS and BHS. While praising Wynkoop as an individual being mostly really great at his job, same parent posting information about issues not being better handled by SPS & BHS administration when there is a problem. Some students not feeling safe at school, a student having to see their abuser etc. Principal Wynkoop sent out an email about the dangers of certain kinds of parties called spodies, dosing with drugs and sexual assault. He sent out another about a sexual assault related forum. Some parents had gone to the district with complaints. But reportedly not asking for principal Wynkoop to be removed, and are as surprised as anyone else. Sounds like there is much more to this situation and likely legal issues. Again so much information missing.

BHS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

The new principal:

Dr. Joseph Williams III
He was a principal in several states, none longer than 3 years. His LinkedIn page says he has an ongoing contract with "TFW Educational Leadership Consultant Services" but I can't find any such business. He has been with SPS for just over a year.

It's a bit confusing because he says he has a doctorate from California Coast University:
Doctor of Philosophy, Advanced Educational Studies and Leadership.

But he's also working on a second doctorate in near the same thing from Liberty University:

"Doctor of Philosophy - PhD Field Of StudyAdvanced Educational Studies Education Leadership
Dates attended or expected graduation 2021 – 2023"

Here's a bio from a conference he is part of to be held in Dubai in March 2022: https://schoolleadersme.com/speakers/dr-joseph-williams-iii/

And this says he's working on an MBA from William Howard Taft University.

He has worked abroad several times as an administrator.

He also has an interesting family(?) page about how K-12 educators can work hard to invest their money.

Anonymous said...

One thing that makes the issue of sexual assault challenging to address is that most cases occur off-campus and lack the kind of evidence that would be required to achieve a conviction in a court of law.

Schools can do very little, perhaps nothing, about off campus crimes, and have to tread very lightly on campus in order not to violate the civil rights of a student who may or may not be guilty. I believe it's very rare for a student to accuse another student of sexual assault falsely, but it's not impossible and schools do have to keep in the mind a fundamental tenet of our society..."innocent until proven guilty".

Frankly, I have no idea how this should be handled. It's very complicated.

psg said...

What does the DeWolf/Hampson have to do with the Wynkoop situation?

Anonymous said...

Ballard's new principal appears to be a straight up grifter. California Coast University is not accredited by the major institutions. Liberty University is the right-wing religious extremist college founded by Jerry Falwell. His bio is "build your brand"? He has barely any experience at all. Wynkoop may need to go, but this Williams guy is totally unqualified and has no business serving as a principal in SPS even on an interim capacity.

His focus on his "brand" and lack of experience strongly suggests he doesn't know how to lead or govern and will make a series of terrible decisions that will leave BHS deeper in crisis.

Fool Me

Anonymous said...

Our son attended Ballard some years ago. I hate to see anybody leading that school from Liberty University. It sounds like they leapfrogged over a couple of experienced women to put this guy in. Can SPS get anything right?

Anonymous said...

Joseph Williams graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1983, where he ran track and was the president of Youth for Christ (according to the yearbook which you can view through classmates.com).

In 2012 (?) he became principal of Kansas City's African-Centered College Preparatory Academy. The school had been a pseudo-charter (sort of like TAF), officially part of Kansas City Public Schools, but not run by the district, outsourced to Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus (ACE) through a contract (from 2008-2012?). The public school district decided to end the contract in 2012 and take the school back because only 30% of ACE elementary students were proficient in math and reading and some of the money seemed to be missing.


He is named principal of the school:

Behavioral problems at the school and a rough start:

And 50 students kicked out:


Anonymous said...

First of all - thank goodness for this blog and comments; as a BHS parent I know virtually nothing other than the poorly written article in Seattle times and lawyer reviewed emails. A few questions/observations:

1. Let me get this straight - since 2020 the Native American Lesbian SPS Superintendent was let go because of accusations (from NAACP I believe) that she was racist/racially insensitive/fill in your favorite word

2. Current SPS board members are now being accused of being racists

3. A teacher at BHS - WHO WAS TEACHING ABOUT RACIAL INJUSTICE - used an analogy or metaphor; a standard learning technique. A student whose father works for the NAACP decides this is racist and Seattle Times reporter puts on cover of paper. Principal W (who had no good options) moves kid away from teacher to diffuse tensions which is somehow considered 'retaliation'

4. School admins. who have no authority over off campus parties are left with very few options regarding punitive measures towards sexual assaulters.

Principal is suspended/let go and reputation is forever tarnished; whenever his name is googled it will come up with auto suggests of 'sexual assault' and racist


Wynkoop's History said...

There is a small group of Justice Activists that want Wynkoop gone.

In 2014 (and possibly 2018) Principal Wynkoop was awarded the Washington State Principal of the year award.

It was Wynkoop’s goal that all families – rich or poor, majority or minority – feel
the special connection to Ballard High School. One major example of this effort is the GAINS Program. The program made a difference in the lives of students that might have been forgotten.

Wynkoop understood the transition from middle to high school was essential to student success. He created a Link Crew. Wynkoop remains passionate about Link Crew and remains involved with the program. "The program first began in 2005 and, since it was implemented, has created some dramatic changes in the school community. The number students in ninth grade with at least one failing grade dropped from 89 in the program’s first year to 46 in the 2012-13 school year. The number of ninth grade suspensions has also dropped from 30 to 18, with three years of only seven suspensions."


Anonymous said...

And this is why God created Republicans. Plenty of teachers have gotten similar racial smack downs for nothing, which have gone unreported by media. Some coaches can’t ask students to take a knee to receive the plans, too racist. You can’t be too careful. And we, the Seattle libs, laugh at the notion that they’re teaching CRT anywhere. Preposterous! We say. How gullible and racist of the right wingers to think CRT is present in schools. Payback’s a bitch, (and I’m talking about at the voting booth, look at Virginia if you need a hint at what’s to come). Did someone say something about a teacher shortage?


Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 7:22

Some of what you are outlining is part of a broader intolerance and orthodoxy. It is being compared almost to a religious movement of fundamentalism. Treating people like heretics, instead of respecting people's honest motivations, shared values as human beings, and diversity of perspectives. I am reading more about it news sources including the NYT. As well as hearing about critique amongst a broad section of intellectuals in the US, concerned about implications for our democracy. Listen to KUOW today, noon hour show.


Anonymous said...

I recall multiple cases of sexual assault at Garfield High School a few years ago. At least 2 were student-on-student assaults. Both happened on school field trips if I remember rightly. How were those handled? Did any student get expelled?

I recall some teachers got in trouble. But did anything happen to the principal (Ted Howard)? I don't remember him being put on leave. If so, why not? What is the role of principals in these cases? What can they legally do? Do accusers/victims need to file a police report? Can a principal expel a student without one? What if the assault happens off campus?

Students need to be protected from abuse and not re-traumatized after. Perpetrators need to be held to account. That much is absolutely clear.

But what are the laws and protocols directing schools on how to protect students and address accusations and assaults? That part seems clear as mud.

Questions Questions

Anonymous said...

Questions Questions brings up good questions. It doesnt seem as though there is any kind of policy on handling some of these tricky situations coming from the District and thus it gets pushed to the buildings to solve for. Beyond Ted Howard there have been other incidents that have certainly cost the district dollars to defend and had very little impact on the principal, or even the teacher involved. What does seem clear is definitely a lack of listening at the district level, and likely that precedent is then set in the buildings. I do think Wynkoop is being unfairly singled out by a small group and I have alot of questions about why this interim individual was installed over those with alot more school admin and building experience. Hmm-any connection to our interim super? My guess is that there are hot spots all over in every school thanks to covid, and stability is badly needed. I think BHS is in for a bumpy ride.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason Ted Howard never suffered consequences for the many, many scandals on his watch at Garfield (sexual assaults, homeless athletes & fake classes etc etc) was probably because he got a lawyer. Is that what Principal Wynkoop needs to do to get a fair hearing? If there's more to the story, the district needs to come clean and be more transparent with parents and the community. Right now, no one really knows what's going on. Yanking the longtime principal without explanation and replacing him with a person with zero ties to the community, and appointing an extra behavioral health counselor doesn't address what's ailing the school. Right now the district seems to be doing even more damage to a school that's already suffering.

Deckchairs & Icebergs