Washougal High associate principal keeps position

Re-evaluation of budget, public outcry help keep Gordon Washburn from being moved to new job

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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A veteran Washougal High School administrator whose job title and salary were downgraded due to district budget concerns has gotten his old job back, Washougal school officials said this week.

The school district initially moved Washougal High Associate Principal Gordon Washburn to a student services administrator position as just one of several cost-cutting measures designed to slash more than $600,000 from the budget for the upcoming 2011-12 school year.

Public school districts across Washington are scrambling to make cuts after the Legislature ordered significant decreases in education funding due to a $5 billion budget shortfall.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Washougal School Board chose to reinstate Washburn as an associate principal based on a re-evaluation of the district’s budget and in response to the public’s vocal opposition to cutting an administrator position for the third straight year, Superintendent Teresa Baldwin said.

Talk of Washburn, a 27-year veteran, having his job title and salary cut resulted in a massive outpouring of support for him, particularly on the social networking site Facebook. The group “I support Gordon Washburn” has received more than 1,000 “likes.”

“The Washougal School District has been given a mandate from the public that it can no longer cut administrative staff,” Baldwin said, referencing audience comments at Tuesday’s meeting. Washougal High has the only two associate principals in the district.

Washburn did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Washburn has served as Washougal High’s associate principal the past 10 years and the school’s performing arts auditorium bears his name.

As associate principal, he performs teacher evaluations and assists in student discipline. He would have headed student discipline at the high school had the board kept him as the student services administrator.

Washougal High Principal Aaron Hansen and Associate Principal Carol Boyden would have shared teacher evaluations, but ceded disciplinary matters to Washburn, according to the budget blueprint.

Washburn is scheduled to make $96,301 during the 2011-2012 school year. He would have taken a $13,733 pay cut had his job title remained changed.

The uncertainty surrounding Washburn’s future resulted from budget woes, and was no reflection of his job performance, Baldwin stressed.

Washougal’s school board has cut more than $600,000 from its 2011-2012 budget. It will officially vote on the budget in August.

The district’s cuts included the elimination of 10 staff positions and the downgrade of an administration position. The district will no longer have an assistant superintendent. It will instead have a curriculum director, a change that saves the district more than $32,000 next year.

Keeping Washburn as associate principal means the school district will need to take nearly $14,000 from another area.

“In a $26 million budget, that’s very easy to accommodate,” Baldwin said.

The school district initially had to prepare for a $1.2 million budget cut. As a clearer, less dire picture of the budget became available, it became more feasible to keep Washburn as an associate principal, school board member Elaine Pfeifer said.

The school district also retained nine other staff members whose jobs were initially on the chopping block.

“We didn’t have as large a cut as we were anticipating,” Pfeifer said. “We felt like it was in the best interest of the students to have two assistant principals working with the principal.”

Boyden, Washougal’s other associate principal, wrote an American History teaching grant that pays for a significant portion of her salary, Baldwin said.

News of Washburn’s reprieve received high marks from current and former students and parents on the “I support Gordon Washburn” Facebook page Wednesday.

Holly Jones, a 1997 graduate of Washougal High, started the Facebook group in support of her former teacher. She declared the board’s decision to retain him as “excellent news.”

“This is what we had all hoped for,” she said via phone, adding the Facebook group brought together Washburn supporters who might have otherwise not known about his situation or not gotten involved.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, ray.legendre@columbian.com//www.twitter.com/col_smallcities//www.facebook.com/raylegend