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Darrington School Board votes to fire superintendent

Board's decision follows death of employee at Larry Johnson's home

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By Gale Fiege
Herald Writer
  • Larry Johnson

    Larry Johnson

  • Myra Green Lewis

    Family photo

    Myra Green Lewis

DARRINGTON -- The Darrington School Board voted Wednesday night to fire Superintendent Larry Johnson, following the death of a school district employee at his home in October.
At a special meeting, the board voted 4-1 to have the district's attorney prepare a letter of termination for Johnson. School board member Roy Bryson, a friend of Johnson's, cast the dissenting vote.
About 30 people attended the meeting, half of them school employees who live in the district. Johnson did not attend.
It has been four months since Myra Lewis, the district's finance director, died following a cocaine overdose at Johnson's Darrington home. Johnson, whose annual salary is about $117,000, has been on paid administrative leave while the school district conducted an investigation to determine if any of his actions constituted misconduct or violated district policy.
The school district's investigation will be released once Johnson has been notified of the board's decision. It was separate from an investigation by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office that concluded in late November. Sheriff's investigators said they found no evidence of foul play or of a crime in the death of Lewis.
At the start of the meeting, school board President Julie Kuntz announced for the record that the district's attorney had recommended that Bryson recuse himself from the discussion and decision. Bryson acknowledged that he is a personal friend of Johnson's, had traveled to the hospital with Johnson the night of the incident and was questioned as a witness in the sheriff's investigation.
But Bryson said, "I am more concerned about the school district than my friendship with Larry Johnson."
Bryson noted that school board member Tom Green is related to Lewis, and also could have been asked to recuse himself.
Kuntz said at the end of the meeting that the investigator's report will be released to the public.
"This was difficult and hard because it took so long to get there," Kuntz said.
She said the district was eager to move forward. Kuntz said she hopes Darrington High School Principal Dave Holmer will continue as interim superintendent until a replacement is hired. Kuntz gave no schedule for finding a new schools chief.
Johnson, who has led the district since the fall of 2005, has 10 days in which to appeal the school board's decision.
Lewis, who was 46 when she died, was a homegrown part of the Darrington School District. She graduated as salutatorian of Darrington High School's class of 1982 and had worked for the school district since she was in her mid-20s.
About 500 students attend classes in the district, which has three schools on one campus.
Story tags » DarringtonDarrington School District

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