District reinstates Sequim High School principal to position

Shawn Langston agrees to work with mediator to ‘build trust’

SEQUIM — Sequim High School Principal Shawn Langston will be back on the job when students come back to classes — most of them virtual — on Monday following winter break.

He has agreed to work with a mediator to “build trust” at the high school, Acting Superintendent Jane Pryne told district parents in an email Dec. 18 that did not say what he allegedly did to erode trust.

District officials have declined to specify what complaints were filed against Langston and Superintendent Rob Clark that prompted the administrators to be placed on paid leave — Clark on Oct. 22 and Langston on Oct. 23.

Officials have said only that complaints filed against the two men were separate and that law enforcement was not involved.

The district declined in November to fill a public records request from the Sequim Gazette, saying the administrators had a right to privacy “due to the highly offensive nature of the allegations.”

Earlier this month, district officials said they anticipated the investigations into complaints concerning the two administrators would be concluded by mid-January and records will be available for disclosure by the end of January.

School board members have approved Pryne’s recommendation to reinstate Langston to the position — without stating the cause of the investigation — and apparently have decided to follow attorney recommendations about Clark — without stating in open session what those recommendations were.

Pryne’s Dec. 18 email to parents/guardians of Sequim High School students said Langston had met with the district’s human resources director, Victoria Balint, to review the complaint investigation findings.

“It was clear from our conversation that Principal Langston appreciated the candor of those who provided testimony, and has made a commitment to do the hard work of partnering with a mediator to help bring reconciliation and healing to Sequim High School,” Pryne wrote.

“Principal Langston will work with a District-appointed mentor to better equip him personally to lead the staff of Sequim High School and build trust where it is lacking, re-build trust that is broken, and create unity where there is division. This is what has been asked of him, and this is what he has agreed to do.

“We are prepared to turn the page to a new chapter at Sequim High School in 2021.”

As for Clark, the school board on Dec. 22 apparently voted to follow legal council recommendations to resolve the situation regarding the complaint against him.

In a move that board President Brandino Gibson described as a somewhat bizarre conclusion to a meeting, board members came out of a closed executive session and unanimously voted to approve an unspecified action that was discussed in the executive session.

Board members did not discuss or elaborate on what they approved.

Only in a later interview did Gibson define what the vote was about. Discussion in executive session regarded the complaint and investigation regarding superintendent Clark.

“Basically it was to allow legal counsel, giving them authorization to move forward,” Gibson said.

“I am absolutely hoping the answer comes before Christmas or before the year is out,” he said.

The contract for Pryne as acting superintendent expires Thursday.

Were the board to not reinstate Clark or extend Pryne’s contract, the district would be left without a working superintendent in 2021.

Gibson expects the superintendent issue will be resolved at the board’s next regular meeting on Jan. 4.

He said he does not expect the district to have another special meeting before then.

Complaint investigations directed toward Clark and Langston were being handled internally through the district’s human resources department as well as risk management staff, Pryne said.

The Washington Schools Risk Management Pool provides insurance coverage and services to Washington state public schools.

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Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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