Interim Ki-Be High School principal leaving

By Ty Beaver Tri-City HeraldJune 9, 2014 

BENTON CITY -- Another administrator is leaving the Kiona-Benton City School District, saying she has struggled to work with the district's school board and top officials.

Interim Principal Shawnta DiFalco announced her departure when she spoke at Saturday's Ki-Be High School graduation ceremony.

DiFalco spent the latter half of the 2013-14 school year leading Ki-Be High after Principal Wayne Barrett was placed on paid administrative leave.

Superintendent Wade Haun told her she could apply to be principal for the next school year but that her appointment wasn't guaranteed, she told the Herald on Monday. DiFalco recently accepted an assistant principal position at Richland's Carmichael Middle School, to start next year.

Her working relationship with the board and Haun has been contentious, particularly since she protested a board decision to reassign a coach who sought an anti-harassment order against board Chairman Tim Cook, she said. DiFalco also was sympathetic to a recent student protest opposing the coach's move.

"That's what the school board and superintendent should expect if they make quick decisions," she said Monday.

Haun said it was his decision not to offer DiFalco the principal position outright, though he encouraged her to apply. Her protest of Graham's reassignment was not the reason for his decision, Haun said.

"I did what I thought was best for the district," he said.

DiFalco finished her doctorate in education leadership at Washington State University Tri-Cities in 2013 and started at Ki-Be that August. She was originally hired as assistant principal for the district's high school and middle school, but after Barrett's removal, she was thrust into the top position at the high school.

DiFalco spoke fondly of the departing seniors and her time in the district when she spoke at graduation in the high school's football stadium. The crowd sounded dismayed at the news.

"I love the Benton City community and would have stayed here for my entire career," she later told the Herald.

The school board hasn't explained why Barrett was removed. The board announced in April that Barrett would finish the school year working in the district office.

DiFalco would have reverted back to her original position had the board not appointed her as interim principal. That would likely have led to her training her own replacement, she said.

"It was time," DiFalco said.

DiFalco's departure is the latest in a series of personnel shifts in Ki-Be since the beginning of 2014. Superintendent Rom Castilleja resigned in late January. He was replaced by Haun, a school board member elected in November who stepped down from the board to accept the job temporarily. Haun was recently given a full one-year contract.

Athletic director and executive director Vance Wing's position is being eliminated at the end of the school year. The board hasn't said he is leaving the district but has declined comment on what his role will be if he remains.

High school girls basketball coach Joe Wirtzberger was removed in March, reportedly for being too hard on his players. That decision was reversed about a week later after dozens of student athletes, parents and other coaches threw their support behind him at a board meeting.

High school assistant girls wrestling coach Holly Graham was recently reassigned to the same position on the middle school's girls wrestling team. She had previously sought an anti-harassment order against board Chairman Tim Cook following an altercation at a girls wrestling meet. Cook's daughter is on the high school wrestling team.

Board members said Graham's move wasn't a demotion and Graham would be key to preparing girls for the high school program. Students, parents and others denounced the decision and as many as 90 students led a protest at the district's offices for a few days afterward, but the board hasn't revisited the matter.

The district has posted the open principal position at Ki-Be High and expects to fill it before classes start again in the fall, Haun said.

DiFalco said she is looking forward to her new position in Richland.

"I think the Richland School District recognizes the value of growing good leaders, and I'm thankful they're giving me this opportunity," she said Monday.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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