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Man ejected from Lyle school meeting

Joshua Farris is seen being escorted from the Lyle School District board meeting Tuesday night in Lyle. He accused the superintendent of “misconduct,” but was asked to leave about five minutes into his statement.

Photo by Neita Cecil
Joshua Farris is seen being escorted from the Lyle School District board meeting Tuesday night in Lyle. He accused the superintendent of “misconduct,” but was asked to leave about five minutes into his statement.



photo

Lyle Superintendent Andrew Kelly listens as a former teacher presents accusations during a district meeting.

REVISED: This story has been revised to reflect that Joshua Farris' contract with the Lyle district was not renewed.

Joshua Farris, who was ejected from a city council meeting in The Dalles in November, was removed from a Lyle school board meeting Tuesday after alleging misconduct by the superintendent.

Farris, whose contract as a history teacher was not renewed by Superintendent Andrew Kelly last year, was the first person to speak during the public comment period. Within about five minutes, he was escorted out by two Klickitat County sheriff’s deputies who were there specifically because Farris had planned to speak.

Farris was ejected from the city council meeting in The Dalles after objecting to not being able to speak on an agenda item regarding the homeless.

Farris’s strongest allegation was that Kelly “killed a co-worker,” which he said without elaboration. In a phone interview later, Kelly’s former employer called the allegation “a blatant lie.”

Kelly did not respond to Farris during the meeting and declined to comment afterward.

Farris was referring to a 2013 traffic accident in Olympia in which Kelly, who had a green light, was turning left and hit a pedestrian, his co-worker Wayne Gilman, in the crosswalk.

Gilman died three weeks later at a hospital in Seattle.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s office, Gilman’s death certificate shows he died of a cerebral infarction brain stem hemorrhage, or essentially a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 65.

Kelly’s former employer, former Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, said both Kelly and Gilman worked for him. The office had about 500 employees.

Dorn said he was told that Kelly was stopped at a light, and then when it turned green he began turning left when he hit Gilman, who was in the crosswalk and reading something.

Dorn said, “he bumped into him. But Wayne was in the crosswalk and Andy did bump into him.” Gilman was knocked over. Dorn said he believed Gilman was taken to the hospital because he heard “they wanted to check him out.”

Later, Gilman was back at work, and he said Kelly and Gilman talked to each other, and each took responsibility for the accident. “One said, ‘I should’ve been paying more attention.’ The other one said, ‘I was reading something and I stepped off the curb.’”

“After the accident I talked to Andy and I went up and talked to Wayne too and they both seemed in good spirits,” Dorn said.

He said the closeness of the crash and then Gilman’s death was “an unfortunate set of circumstances, but I think that’s what it was, an unfortunate set of coincidences and circumstances.”

The Chronicle attempted to reach multiple members of Gilman’s family, without success.

Dorn said Kelly “is an exceptionally hard worker, he has exceptionally high standards and wants everybody to meet that standard so students do better.” Under Dorn, Kelly was an assistant superintendent in the school success program, informally called the school turnaround program. Dorn said Kelly “was one of the very best school turnaround assistant sup[erintendent]s in the nation. There’s no doubt about it.”

He said Kelly has made “exceptional progress” at Lyle. He said when Kelly left the office of the superintendent of public instruction, “it was a big loss to the agency and a huge gain for Lyle to get such an outstanding educator.”

Farris said in the meeting he’s heard allegations of theft against Kelly stemming from his past jobs in Nevada and Portland.

Dorn said he had talked to the superintendents of both districts where Kelly worked before joining his office, and “both said he’s one of the best.”

At the meeting, Farris said the real problem in Lyle was economic, with significant student homelessness, and the school couldn’t fix that. He was critical of Kelly’s $158,000 a year salary, and shouted “We deserve better!” as deputies led him out.

Farris said his ticket out of Lyle, where he grew up, was joining the Army, where he was stationed in Iraq. He had roadside bombs “blow up in my face, a lot of trauma about that. That’s the most traumatic thing in my life was being in the military. But that’s how I got out of this place.”

He said friends who stayed got into serious drug use.

Dorn said Kelly has “done his job” in Lyle. “It comes with not making everybody happy… Unfortunately, it looks as if somebody took it a little too far,” he said of the criticism by Farris.

Lyle school board chair Phil Williams said of Farris that, “It’s unfortunate that he has chosen to air his grievances in public this way. We have not had anything brought before us to substantiate his claims, other than his grievances.”

Around 50 people attended the meeting, an unusually large crowd. Farris had urged people via Facebook to attend the meeting since it was Kelly’s bi-annual review.

Since the meeting, Farris said he plans to circulate a “public concern leaflet” restating his allegations and encouraging people to attend the February Lyle board meeting. He has posted the leaflet on his Facebook page.

The board went into a nearly 90-minute executive session “to talk about these issues,” Williams said, and came out of the session and took no action.

Williams said Kelly was properly vetted. “I was not on the board at that time. The process was followed. We did our due diligence, background checks, all these things.”

Williams said of Kelly, “He’s doing an excellent job for our kids. Our district has some pretty incredible things going on for a district this size. He’s got a lot of support from staff. There’s a lot of positive things going on.”

As to why two deputies were at the meeting, Williams said, “Josh has a history of being disruptive in The Dalles and we just wanted to be sure it’s safe when you have a crowd of people and it’s emotional. It’s good to have security on hand.”

Farris has also mentioned a drunk driving arrest Kelly had in March 2017, which was also covered in the Goldendale Sentinel.

Kelly was arrested in Bingen on charges of drunk driving and reckless endangerment because his 13-year-old son was in the car.

Five people reported his erratic driving along Interstate 5 and Hwy 14, with one caller estimating 20-30 accidents were nearly caused on I-5, but other drivers swerved to avoid him, according to the police report.

He blew a .147 BAC on a portable breathalyzer and a .129 at the police station, according to the Klickitat County West District Court. The legal limit is .08. The arresting officer began proceedings to require the forfeiture of the loaded handgun found in Kelly’s car. He had a concealed weapon permit.

On May 31, 2017, Kelly entered into a deferred prosecution, with two years of active probation where he has to check in with a probation officer and complete a treatment program.

If he completes the five-year deferred prosecution term without any violations, the charge will be dismissed, according to the West District Court.

Williams said of the drunk driving arrest, if something is done on private time, “unless it has a direct impact on your performance as an employee, we can’t punish you.”

Williams said, “We have done our best to make sure Mr. Kelly is performing his duties for the school district and is performing those duties at a high level and we feel confident in his ability. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t continue to employ Mr. Kelly.”

Williams, who used to be a principal, said, “Lots of teachers have DUIIs – though not here – but you don’t necessarily hear about it.”



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