Law firm reports no violations of policy in Evergreen investigation

·3 min read

May 15—A law firm hired to investigate complaints made by Mountain View High School teachers — which spurred the principal to be placed on paid administrative leave and then ultimately resign from the position — concluded that no district policies were violated.

However, in the weeks since the April 12 independent report came back to Evergreen Public Schools, principal Matt Johnson agreed to resign through a settlement agreement prior to the conclusion of a second district investigation.

An initial report dated April 12 by Seattle-based law firm Helsell Fetterman outlines separate complaints filed in March by four teachers at Mountain View alleging favoritism, harassment, bullying and retaliation by Johnson, associate principals Sheri Walker and Rashonda Waters-Smith, and Mat Clark, the dean of students. Teachers also complained the administration was "implementing disproportionate discipline" against Black and Latinx students.

All complaints were filed from March 8-11, according to documents received by The Columbian through a public records request.

The report concluded no violations of district policy following interviews with teachers and administrators, and reviewing evidence from complaint statements, text messages, discipline letters and district policies and procedures.

Investigators said they found insufficient evidence and no evidence to support claims of harassment and bullying made against select administrators. They did, however, recommend the district address what they found to be "undeniable perception" of favoritism by Johnson for Walker, sports coaches, band staff and others within the building. The investigators also recommended that the staff be educated on the district's expectations regarding the use of racist language.

New position for Johnson

Late Friday, the school district released Johnson's agreement, in which he agreed to step down from his job as principal and will remain on paid administrative leave through June 30 before transferring to a "non-represented administrative position."

District spokeswoman Gail Spolar said that position is a one-year "principal on special assignment" as a planning coordinator for the soon-to-be-expanded Career and Technical Education program. That position will last until June 30, 2022, when Johnson will leave the district and never seek a future leadership position in the district, according to the agreement.

Johnson's current pay of $165,587 this school year will remain in 2021-22. It will be broken up into a base salary of $128,845 and be supplemented by cashing out $36,742 worth of accrued vacation time, according to the agreement.

Johnson, Mountain View's principal since 2014, was first placed on a non-disciplinary administrative leave by the district March 16 after allegations of inappropriate behavior. It reinstated Johnson on April 21, but Johnson was placed back on leave April 22 so it could look into the impact of an all-staff email Johnson sent prior to his scheduled return.

The district had Clear Risk Solutions, its contracted risk management firm, conduct an investigation on the impact of Johnson's email, said Spolar. Johnson resigned as principal before that investigation wrapped up this week, she said. She directed The Columbian to file a public records request for the most recent investigation report.

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