Athletic scandal rocks school
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 05, 2009
8/15/10 at 9:32 AM
Related story: Mims comes home to BTW.
Problems with student-athlete eligibility at Booker T. Washington High School erupted into a full-blown scandal Wednesday afternoon as school district officials announced that the number of ineligible students has reached more than 40 and that even more game forfeitures are necessary.
Superintendent Keith Ballard announced a host of school leadership changes — including the reassignment of Principal Micheal Johnson — at a closed-door, after-school meeting with the high school's faculty.
"This has been a very difficult day for a very proud high school in Tulsa Public Schools," Ballard said at a press conference after the faculty meeting. "What grieves me the most about this process is the harm that has been done to students — to athletes who worked hard all summer to showcase their abilities."
Just last week, Tulsa Public Schools administrators imposed sanctions against the Booker T. Washington athletics department after an internal investigation found that six student athletes were ineligible because of transfer and recruiting violations. Five school officials — four from the athletic department, as well as principal Johnson — were reprimanded.
On Wednesday, district administrators announced that an additional 37 student athletes had competed while ineligible because of sub-par grades. The sports they participated in include softball, volleyball, cross country and football.
Those violations will result in the forfeiture of the varsity Booker T. Washington vs. Miami football game — which used 16 ineligible players, including seven starters. Also affected are the outcomes of four varsity volleyball matches, including the 2009 Regional Volleyball Championship.
Although state athletics regulations required high schools to begin academic eligibility checks on student athletes on Sept. 14, the school did not begin until Oct. 12.
"Witnesses have testified that they alerted the principal and site ADs (athletic directors) to this in September (around the time grade-eligibility checks were supposed to have begun) but that Principal Micheal Johnson was reluctant to begin — as were site ADs (Antwain Jimmerson and Ioder Fisher)," states a TPS investigative report released Oct. 27.
On Wednesday, Ballard said he impressed upon faculty members to "ensure that academics come first" for all Booker T. students.
"We in fact did have people who were reporting that there were difficulties with student grades, and that's where the adults did not step up and take care of their obligation in turning that in," he said.
According to Ballard, Johnson on Wednesday morning requested an administrative transfer to another school site, which has yet to be determined.
Assistant Principal Geoff Woodson, meanwhile, has been granted a transfer to become assistant principal at Memorial High School.
Asked why he granted the transfers instead of taking more serious disciplinary actions against school leaders, Ballard replied, "That's a personnel issue that I'm not going to get into in depth at all I believe that we need to do what we believe is in the best interest as district administrators and then prepare to move forward."
Johnson will take earned vacation time "until the district can determine where his experience and abilities will provide the greatest benefit to students," according to a press statement.
He did not return calls from the Tulsa World to his home and cell phone on Wednesday evening.
Ballard said he hopes to name an interim principal for the remainder of the 2009-10 academic year by Monday.
The district will conduct an exhaustive search for a permanent successor to Johnson to begin in fall 2010, he added.
Students who were waiting for rides home after school gathered to listen to Ballard's press conference.
Teana Herbert, a junior, said it was not widely known among Booker T. Washington's student body that grade checks weren't being done on student athletes early in the semester.
Leadership changes at Booker T. Washington High School
Principal Micheal Johnson
to be reassigned to
James Furch, co-principal
at McLain High
School, to fill in as school
leader for a few days.
Interim principal could be
named by monday.
Geoff Woodson transferred
to same position at memorial
Mike Mims, a former
Booker T. Washington
and University of Oklahoma
coach, hired as assistant
principal in charge of
Booker T. Washington
baseball coaches John Potocnik
and Jason Doctor appointed
as co-athletic directors
after the removal
of Antwain Jimmerson and
voluntary resignation of
Ioder “Butch” Fisher from
all athletic duties.
Source: Tulsa Public Schools
Andrea Eger 581-8470
Johnson: The superintendent says Principal Micheal Johnson requested an administrative transfer to another school site, which has yet to be determined.
Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, visits with Booker T. Washington High School students Wednesday afternoon after a press conference about student-athletes' eligibility. STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World