Washburn High School goes from bad to worse

The Star Tribune reports that Patrick Exner was fired, by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, after being the Washburn High School principle for only one day. He worked at the high school on Monday, was suspended on Tuesday, and was fired on Thursday after being accused of cheating on Wednesday. In a bizarre twist of events, Exner’s future within the school district has become very unclear. The Strib asked district spokesman Stan Alleyne to give some clarity on Exner’s future but he stated that he wasn’t allowed to answer any questions.

After Exner’s firing, Washburn parents received voice mails to inform them that he was no longer the acting principle. The voice mail also stated that the district received an anonymous e-mail that triggered an investigation into Exner’s time at Ubah Medical Academy in Hopkins, Minnesota. The e-mail claimed that Exner changed the answers of students state graduation exit exams. In mid-July, the Ubah’s testing coordinator had reported that there had been a test security breach, which was confirmed by state education officials.

Johnson stated at the end of the voice mail that she had made the decision to fire Exner and that his hiring had caused for more distractions at Washburn. “We are glad that the issue was brought to our attention, although we would have preferred to learn of any possible issues of concern during the hiring process and before the job offer was made,” said Johnson. The “more distractions” that Johnson is talking about stem from the previous school year, which caused for previous Washburn principle Carol Markham-Cousins to be reassigned.

Last school year, around 300 to 500 Washburn students staged a walk-out and sit-in in support of schools athletic director, Dan Pratt. Insiders claim that an investigation was started by the school to find out if Pratt obtained proper permission to purchase a new score board. Pratt supporters claim that Cousins wanted to use the score board purchase to fire him. In another incident, KARE 11 reports that four Washburn students were caught hanging a “brown-skinned baby doll by its neck…” in a hallway of the school.

After events like the Newtown, Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a lot of parents and school officials are on edge. What exactly is being done to protect our children? Is the hiring and firing of Exner a reflection of a broken system?

Johnson claims that the district “conducted a thorough hiring process for the Wasburn principal…” position. She claims that they called Exner’s references and nothing concerning surfaced. But, parents are wondering why Johnson’s staff didn’t search beyond the information that was listed on Exner’s application and resume. The hiring process started in April, which former Hasting superintendent Ken La Croix believes was way to late. La Croix specializes in school administrator searches. Starting your search for a new principle in April doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to gather information on a candidate, especially if you are trying to fill the position before the start of the following school year.

For the time being Wasburn Assistant Principal Linda Conley will act as interim principal, supported by Wasburn Assistant Principal Nilo Guanzon and a temporary assistance from Craig Vana. Vana is a retired principal.

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