Storm of controversy engulfs Skyview High
Principal says school will weather fallout from sexual misconduct arrests
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Two face charges; skyview reacts
• The charges: Skyview science teacher, assistant football coach and boys track coach Nathan J. “Nate” Botnen, 33, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of sexual misconduct with one student, allegedly occurring late in the 2007-08 school year.
Voted the 4A Greater St. Helens League boys track coach of the year by his peers last spring, he faces 30 counts and was booked into the Clark County Jail on $100,000 bail.
Adrian B. Kelley, 23, a private paid assistant to the Skyview band program and a 2005 graduate, was arrested last Tuesday. He faces six counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, the result of alleged improper relations with two students. His arraignment is scheduled for this morning
• School response: Vancouver school officials sent a letter home with all students Friday concerning Botnen’s arrest. A volunteer team of trauma counselors was called in to assist school employees and students. All staff members were given talking points to help students and/or parents respond to events. All Skyview employees were addressed about focusing on appropriate conduct with students; administrators at all Vancouver schools were told to follow suit.
Each Vancouver district employee must complete an independent, online conduct and ethics tutorial by mid-September.
Despite Monday’s sunshine, a cloud still hovered over Skyview High School, home of the Storm.
The high-profile arrests of two adults for alleged sexual relations with students, in a span of 48 hours last week, has jolted the Salmon Creek campus.
Students and administrators said the ripples haven’t settled, even as they try to ease back into routine.
As for lasting fallout of the lurid, unrelated cases — the first against an aide for the globe-trotting, award-winning marching band; the second, against a popular biology-chemistry teacher and award-winning athletics coach — there are competing viewpoints.
“We’ve got great, resilient kids and families,” said Kym Tyelyn-Carlson, fourth-year principal at the 2,000-pupil school.
“I don’t mean to minimize. It’s rough. It’s fair to say that it rocked us at our core,” Tyelyn-Carlson said on Monday. “But we’re a school that isn’t defined by the actions and choices of an individual.
“The students really know what our school’s about. We’re a first-rate school, and that comes from hard-working, passionate, dedicated students, parents and teachers,” she said.
Ask a Skyview student, or a handful, and a different perception will emerge.
“It gives us a bad name, which we already had. We’re the so-called ‘Skyview skanks,’” said Malia Delano, 16, a sophomore who transferred from Battle Ground two years ago.
She was interviewed off campus after school. Administrators have turned media away since last Thursday evening, understandably, when students’ Facebook pages lit up with news of the second arrest.
“A lot of kids have been kind of down. All the teachers were down in the dumps,” Delano said of the turmoil, which may cost the school two valuable faculty members. “I’m sure we’ll get past it.”
But she’s also found the gossip, back-biting and “drama” at Skyview that her older sister, a 2008 graduate, had warned her about. Along with obvious flouting of school dress codes that’s been tolerated, she said.
The latest incident won’t help the school shake its outward appearance of permissiveness, she said.
“I don’t know about (a lax culture at) Skyview,” Tyleyn-Carlson said. “I don’t know if it’s that, as much as fashion. We’ve seen the low-rise pants and cropped tops. … Teenagers want to be fashionable, and fashionable is not always appropriate. And so, we’re continually addressing it.”
‘Family’ pulls together
The contrast is perhaps predictable, since Skyview in many ways fits the stereotype of snooty suburban high school.
The building opened in September 1997 with a highly touted, innovative design, stand-out faculty and hands-on parents in the wealthiest corner of the Vancouver school district. It serves a population where 22 percent of students come from low-income homes, compared to 49 percent districtwide.
“We have good parents, good kids,” said Lisa Budnick, president of the Skyview marching band booster club.
It’s a corner of Clark County relatively free of crime and lurid headlines, she said.
“In our area, we don’t see this kind of stuff happening. You don’t see people getting arrested,” Budnick said. “That’s what makes it hard; these are people students know.”
Still, Skyview’s potent human resources, responsible for so much success — such as being ranked among the nation’s best schools, based on college-level Advanced Placement exams taken, by Newsweek magazine; trophy-winning athletes and sports teams; the Storm band’s journey to perform at the Beijing Olympic Games — are what will heal the school, its leader and others said.
“We’re pulling together as a family,” Tyelyn-Carlson said.
The principal addressed the Storm football team, where Nathan J. “Nate” Botnen, 33, was an assistant coach, plus the dance team and cheerleading squad coached by his wife, also a chemistry teacher at the school. The principal also spoke to the marching band, which Adrian B. Kelley, 23, a former Skyview musician, had assisted until his arrest last Tuesday.
The chief message?
“A sense of affirmation that we stand strong, together. We’ll get through this,” Tyelyn-Carlson said.
Indeed, the Skyview band regrouped nicely: The group earned its highest marks of the season, competing Saturday with 16 rivals at the Tumwater Marching Band Festival, sweeping all scoring categories.
“It was great to see because we had a pretty rough week,” said veteran band director Steve Robertson.
“The kids are going to rebound. They’re resilient,” said Budnick, the booster leader whose son performs with the band, prior to the contest. “But they’re getting a big lesson in life, unfortunately.”
Tyelyn-Carlson said Skyview was able to avoid “chaos” on Friday, having added extra school security and administrative help and plugged in several substitute teachers.
Now comes homecoming week at the school, a welcome diversion that should rekindle solidarity and school spirit, she said.
“If anyone needs to be nervous, it’s Evergreen (High) when we beat them on Friday,” she said with a chuckle.
And yet — the various “spirit days” leading up to the football game encourage goofy outfits that openly defy the school’s dress code, said Delano, the wary sophomore.
“Girls still want to wear their short shorts,” the 16-year-old said. “It doesn’t really help the students, right now.”
Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or email@example.com.