UPDATE: Students, staff support Knaggs ruling


Assistant Principal Gracie Helm

Many staff members and students at Wenatchee High School are supportive of a Chelan County Superior Court judge’s decision to reverse former WHS teacher Ed Knaggs’ termination order.

“I agree with the decision the judge made. I think the whole process [the judge] followed was, from what I read, pretty much 100 percent how I feel. I think there was some errors in the process the first time,” PE teacher Scott Devereaux said. “Personally, I would like to see [Knaggs] have his job back if he wants to, but I’m not sure that will happen.”

While district administrators still remain close-mouthed about what will come next, Judge Lesley Allan’s ruling earlier this week may move the former PE teacher and baseball coach one step closer to being reinstated.

Knaggs was terminated in April 2012 on charges of “unprofessional conduct,” “flagrant disregard,” and “gross incompetence,” according to his termination letter, as the person in charge when freshman Antonio Reyes drowned in the high school swimming pool Nov. 17, 2011.

Knaggs appealed his termination, which per district policy, went to an administrative hearing last March. A hearing officer determined that Knaggs’ conduct was “egregious” and “flagrant”, deeming his termination to be justified, and thus upholding the school district’s decision.

A second appeal went before Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan on Nov. 15, which Allan ruled on Jan. 27 that the termination order be reversed.

“I think the hardest part is, every time there’s a ruling made, regardless of what the decision is, the family comes to my mind first and foremost,” WHS Assistant Principal Gracie Helm said. “As a mom, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to deal with.”

Wenatchee School District now has until Feb. 26 to appeal Allan’s decision. The school board held an executive session on Jan. 28, but still had yet to make a decision on what they will do next. Board President Laura Jaecks declined to comment on any executive session discussions, but will notify The Apple Leaf once a decision is made.

“I am concerned about our community and this is a really tough thing our community is going through,” board member Jennifer Talbot said. “Know that our board is working very hard and looking at all the information in front of us.”

Talbot urges the community to write to the board and provide input on the current circumstances. Spanish or English, Talbot assured that the board would read any emails or letters sent to them and take the input into consideration.

Following posting of the original breaking news story on Allan’s decision, 15 comments supportive of Allan’s decision came through on The Apple Leaf’s Facebook page.

“He was a scapegoat for some HUGE oversights…good decision,” Stephanie Matthews, a mortgage adviser at Mortgage Advisory Group, said on Facebook.

In in-person interviews, students, just like a lot of staff, are supportive of Allan’s decision.

“I’m excited. A lot of us are hopeful that he’ll get his job back and coach again,” said junior Jacob Prater, who is a baseball player. “Knaggs is one of those guys you really want coaching on your team because he really gets to know everyone.”

“It’s a good thing. The judge said [Knaggs’ conduct] wasn’t necessarily malicious. It could’ve happened to any teacher – there wasn’t intention. It was an accident,” senior Sara Phipps said.

Current freshman and sophomores were not at WHS when the drowning occurred, but have differing opinions. “I might not know enough about it [but] I wouldn’t feel comfortable in his class,” freshman Elaine Stiles said.

Helm declined to comment on any form of reprimand she, or any other district administrator, received for their wrongdoing in “creating a situation where a student could drown,” which served as a key point in Allan reversing Knaggs’ termination order.

Multiple calls to Knaggs have gone unanswered. Look for continuing coverage in The Apple Leaf on Feb. 12, with more comments from staff and students.