Enterprise High School athletic director Larry Wells has resigned, citing unprofessional conduct by superintendent Erika Pinkerton and the school board.
Wells alleged in a letter to the school board that employees deliberately falsified a student’s attendance records and Pinkerton deemed that student eligible to play school sports, despite the fact that Wells had determined the student was ineligible. The student had been enrolled in a California high school at the beginning of this school year. According to Wells, the student had returned to EHS on Sept. 11 and proceeded to skip 15 school days — including 10 consecutive days — further making him ineligible.
“Obviously, academics isn’t important at that point,” Wells said. “Your transfer can’t be athletically motivated. You have to make a transfer for academic reasons.”
Wells determined on Oct. 4, after he says he consulted with the Oregon Schools Activities Association, that the student was unable to participate in athletics. The OSAA told Wells he was correct, but he could submit the case to the District Athletic Committee, of which Wells is chairman, for a second look. Wells did not do so.
“The case has no merit,” he said.
According to Wells, neither Pinkerton nor any school board has asked him for details about the case.
The letter states that on Monday, Oct. 8, school principal Blake Carlsen and Wells discovered that a student’s attendance records had been altered. Carlsen conducted interviews of all individuals with access to student records, and each individual denied involvement.
However, Carlsen determined the culprit through a computer audit. Pinkerton was notified of the investigation, but allegedly created another position for the employee in a different part of the school. No disciplinary action was taken against the employee. According to Wells, the only reason the student’s attendance records were restored to their original state is because he had taken screenshots of them.
The school board then held an executive session for the student to let him explain his side of the story. They did not ask Wells for input. The board then issued a letter to the student, noting that if he raised his grades at the alternative education school he attends, the board would allow the superintendent to submit a reinstatement request to the District Athletic Committee.
“This was never a grades question,” Wells responded. “What’s most frustrating is that when the school board publishes a letter to the family that Blake Carlsen and Larry Wells mishandled the case, when no one consulted me for my facts and my timeline,” Wells said.
Wells says his access to attendance records was also curtailed without notification. Because of this, Wells asserts violations of school policy. He stated that access to those records is pertinent to his job to determine eligibility.
In addition Wells claims that the school board, without due process or review of factual guidelines and timelines, issued a letter to the parents of the student that was critical of Wells’ and Carlsen’s actions. The school board was also unwilling or unable to supply Carlsen with details of how he or Wells violated policy of the District Athletic Committee eligibility requests as the aforementioned letter stated.
According to Wells, the 18-year-old student formally withdrew from Enterprise after starting football practice here and went to stay with non-custodial parents in California, where he enrolled in three different schools.
“All the circumstance of him leaving and returning were fully within his control as well as his custodial parents,” Wells said.
Wells said that it was his opinion that the superintendent or school board didn’t want to tell the student’s parents that their son was ineligible. Instead, they’ll let the athletic committee or ultimately the OSAA make a ruling.
“I’d like to know why this particular kid is so important,” Wells said.
Enterprise School District superintendent, Erika Pinkerton, disagreed with Wells’ interpretation of events.
She affirmed that she and the board decided to move forward with a hardship eligibility request to the District Athletic Committee if the student met the board’s requirements.
Pinkerton stated that the school attendance alteration was done because the student was a 10-day drop and the Oregon Department of Education requires that when the school drops a student from the rolls that the records are accurate.
“He’s (Wells) under the understanding that what they (the secretaries) do was not legal, and that is not true,” she said. “Nothing illegal or unethical has been conducted by an employee of my district with altering records.”
The superintendent did say an audit was done and an employee identified, but because it is a personnel issue she can’t discuss it. She could not discuss whether any disciplinary action was taken against the employee or whether the attendance records were “restored,” for the same reason.
Furthermore, although Wells’ access to the “Schoolmaster” program was curtailed, Pinkerton said that after review, she determined that Wells and another employee only needed “read only” access while the secretaries retained full access because of their duties.
“I took the time to sit down and do an audit on who had access to what,” Pinkerton said. “I investigated a concern that was brought forth to me.”
Pinkerton said that the letter that went out to the student’s parents from the school board was not taken lightly.
“There was due process through all of this,” she said. “Larry (Wells) reported to Blake (Carlsen). Blake brought the information to the school board. The school board evaluated that and came to a recommendation for the student’s best interests.”
Additional events regarding this case have transpired, including a controversial school board meeting and the student in question attempting to practice with the basketball team since Wells submitted his resignation letter.
The Chieftain will follow up on this story in a later issue.