Our Voice: One fiasco after another push Ki-Be backward

February 25, 2014 

Just when we thought there was a new sense of calm for the Kiona-Benton City School District, it has been made clear that we were oh so wrong.

Within a span of just a few days, a request for a protection order was filed by a coach seeking protection from the school board president and the high school principal was very publicly escorted off campus and placed on administrative leave.

What is going on in Benton City?

With the recent resignation of contentious Ki-Be Superintendent Rom Castilleja and the appointment of interim superintendent Wade Haun, it seemed the district might have an opportunity to focus again on education, rather than the antics of some administrators and school board members.

Even the state teachers union seemed to be on board to give the district a break and some time to rebuild after a very rocky few years.

Dubious decisions that we were willing to give a chance to play out now seem to be adding to the drama. When Castilleja resigned, school board president Wade Haun resigned from the board he had just been elected to and was quickly appointed interim superintendent. With Haun's background in commercial printing, the decision seemed curious, but we wanted to give him some time to show his leadership. Tim Cook was appointed to take over as president of the board and a new era seemed to be upon us.

But some adults in the district are still up to their same old shenanigans. Leadership is a foreign concept to many of those at the top, including Cook, who apparently believes that the rules don't apply to him.

His bad behavior prompted one of the high school wrestling coaches to seek a protection order against him. Cook, a former Ki-Be wrestling coach himself, was so aggressive toward girls wrestling coach Holly Graham at a recent meet that the district's athletic director and acting superintendent stepped in to physically shield Graham. The request for a protection order was denied in Benton County District Court on Monday. It would have prevented Cook from approaching Graham or contacting her.

Rules are rules and apply to all parents, whether they are on the school board or former coaches. Lead by example is a lesson our children all need to learn and Cook is clearly not doing that.

To have a coach feel threatened to the point that a very public protection order request was made is an embarrassment for the district. Graham did the right thing in asking for it, and is showing the young women on her team that bullying and aggression will not prevail. If the allegations hold true, Cook should be ashamed and should step down from the school board.

District officials are staying mum on the matter for now. We had hoped for more transparency, but anything involving a court action usually silences administrators.

On the heels of the protection order debacle comes the news that Wayne Barrett, principal of Kiona-Benton City High School, was asked to leave the campus Monday morning and placed on administrative leave.

Again, district officials aren't saying much. They did clarify that Barrett's removal is not related to anything involving a student or former student or a criminal investigation. Clear as mud to be sure, but that's what you get at Ki-Be, and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon, unfortunately.

What Barrett did to warrant being removed from his role at the high school is yet to be seen. Whatever it is, it's sure to generate more headlines.

Ki-Be needs to end the drama and get back to the mission at hand: educating its students. Kids are bright and they can't help but notice the chaos around them.

Ki-Be has a lot to offer, but the continuing calamities of leadership further tarnish the district's ability to focus on education. We love that Ki-Be has embraced a girls wrestling program, for example, and has been a leader in developing the sport.

We just wish the district could develop the kind of adult leadership its students deserve.

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