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Vancouver principal resigns amid allegations of racist language among staff, favoritism

A Vancouver principal whose staff complained of favoritism and lax discipline for racist language in school buildings announced Wednesday he has resigned.

Matt Johnson, who led Mountain View High School since 2014 but had been on paid administrative leave for almost two months, said in a morning statement that his resignation comes after “collaborative conversations with the district.”

“The decision is in the best interest of the entire Mountain View School community,” Johnson’s statement read.

Johnson will land at a new position within Evergreen Public Schools. In a statement, he said he’ll start a new job on July 1 at the central office for the next school year. The job title: principal on special assignment, according to district spokeswoman Gail Spolar.

When asked how much Johnson would earn in his new role, Spolar said human resources staff weren’t immediately available to provide that information. Documents presented to the district’s school board on Tuesday show Johnson will resign from that position next summer.

Johnson previously made $165,587 annually. He made more than $20,000 while on paid administrative leave.

Johnson’s resignation comes after newly released records showed outside investigators had advised Mountain View to address an “undeniable perception” of favoritism among school staff and that it needed to “educate” staff on racist language.

Four teachers filed complaints in early March with a bevy of allegations, including that they were relegated to teaching difficult classes, that some supervisors bullied them, and that some teachers caught using racist slurs faced few – if any – consequences.

Evergreen Public Schools paid a Seattle law firm $13,575 to investigate the claims.

The firm, Helsell Fetterman, compiled a report in April that found the staff at the school felt Johnson gave preferential treatment to some teachers, coaches, and particularly to one associate principal.

Investigators also noted the district should “educate” staff about racist language.

In April, OPB reported a gym teacher who used the n-word repeatedly toward a student had faced few repercussions. Disciplinary records later confirmed multiple witnesses saw the event. The district punished Tim Buswell by requiring him to talk with “those affected” and to take an online class on diversity.

Three out of four teachers mentioned the incident in their complaints to the district. Many allegations the teachers made about interpersonal conflicts, however, lacked evidence, according to investigators.

In addition to the Seattle law firm’s review, Johnson faced a second investigation from the district’s contracted risk management company, Clear Risk Solutions, after he sent a staff-wide email in April dismissing the allegations in the first investigation as not credible. The district could not provide an update on the status of that investigation Wednesday afternoon.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Troy Brynelson