Considering that the subject is once again Pleasure Ridge Park High School Principal David Johnson and his accountability issues as they pertain to a sports program at his school, perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to resurrect the famous Yogi Berra quote — “It’s deja vu all over again” — to address the latest known episodes of his mismanagement and lack of leadership in his important, and taxpayer-funded, job.
These deficits surfaced under tragic circumstances more than four years ago, when a PRP football player named Max Gilpin collapsed after a grueling practice. He died three days later in the hospital. The teen’s death spurred a police investigation and criminal charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment against Coach Jason Stinson; the coach was acquitted by a Jefferson Court jury.
But the portrait that emerged then of Mr. Johnson, the alleged leader of the school, was a profile in discouraging anything that would start shining a light on what led to the athlete’s collapse. It caused this editorial page to recommend he be removed from his post until a thorough investigation of his stewardship of the school was completed. We wrote, on Feb. 18, 2009:
“The principal did not keep records. The principal did not take notes. The principal did not do formal interviews of those present when Gilpin collapsed or those who complained about the coaches’ behavior. He was dismissive of e-mail and notes he received from people in the community, and he deleted e-mail protests. The principal did refer repeatedly to ‘the chain of command,’ none of which seemed to have anything to do with him.
“The casual nature of Mr. Johnson’s alleged inquiry into what might have led to a teenager’s death ... creates justified wonder about what else may be happening at PRP that he — and we — don’t know about. We should not have to wonder.”
Well, he’s still on the job but we don’t have to wonder anymore.
The Courier-Journal’s Antoinette Konz reported on Tuesday that the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability investigated whether Mr. Johnson violated district policies and state regulations by allowing baseball coach Bill Miller to operate a for-profit sports business on school property “and oversaw thousands of dollars in expenses that were either improper or undocumented.”
Ms. Konz reported that JCPS is going through the OEA report and conducting another internal audit “to determine whether any disciplinary action needs to be taken.”
If past is prologue, that’s not going to happen — even though Mr. Johnson’s ignorance or disregard of district policies and state regulations is breathtakingly impressive. What’s also striking about this set of activities, which go back a number of years, is the recurring theme of Mr. Johnson not keeping records, not filing forms, not remembering or being “unaware” of things going on right under his nose. Etc. Etc.
I was wondering if C-J would remind everyone of PRP Principal David Johnson's past and just how much JCPS has overlooked to keep him in his position. If you've forgotten the story...
There’s no death involved this time, but the latest revelations should lead more than an editorial page to wonder why Mr. Johnson still has a job leading a public school if he can’t follow the rules for his professional performance.
Sports Illustrated's moving long-form story on the death of PRP football Max Gilpin, "The Boy who Died of Football": Gilpin died from heatstroke following a hard football practice on a hot day in 2008. [Of his non-investigation] Pleasure Ridge Park High principal David Johnson (free safety, Louisville) summed up the feeling of many others when he said he knew [Coach] Stinson did nothing wrong because "I know what kind of person he is."
A a couple of tid bits form KSN&C:
Aug 2008: Johnson replied to an email from a PRP resident: "I will excuse your e-mail as ignorance of the situation that took place last Wednesday. I have the utmost confidence in all of our staff and have no qualms about supporting their decisions as coaches. Our head football coach was hired based not only on his knowledge of football, but also because of his strong Christian beliefs and integrity toward his job and the treatment of all who know him."
Oct 2008: The estranged wife of Pleasure Ridge Park High School principal David Johnson has taken out an emergency protection order against him that bars him from the school, claiming Johnson hit his teenage son in the face on Sunday.
Feb 2009: PRP Principal's bogus faith-based investigation - Principal David Johnson admitted last week that he never investigated the football practice where Max Gilpin collapsed from heat stroke - despite telling one community member that he had conducted a "thorough investigation."
Mar 2009: Johnson looks for a new coach
Here's the timeline from the coach's account by Toni Konz at C-J:
Any way you cut it - Johnson's obtuse testimony failed his district, his superintendent, and the school he loves by his dismissive mishandling of such a tragic event. He failed Max Gilpin.
Attorney Todd Thompson disputes the coach's timeline, saying,
- During the Aug. 20, practice, senior Antonio Calloway was overcome by the heat and collapsed.
- 15 minutes later, Max collapsed between 6:10 and 6:15 p.m.
- An EMS report shows the ambulance was called at 6:18 p.m. and arrived at 6:27, then went to Kosair Children's Hospital.
- Webb, PRP's athletic director, who was at the practice, didn't notify Johnson until around noon Thursday, Aug. 21.
- Johnson chastised Webb for failing to notify him sooner, then began an initial assessment of what took place, Berman said.
- Johnson notified Joe Burks, the assistant superintendent of high schools, who told Berman about the incident that afternoon.
- Berman said Burks instructed Jerry Wyman, the district's director of athletics, to go to PRP and "assess the situation to see if the (Kentucky High School Athletic Association) rules and procedures were followed."
- Wyman went to the school to collect documentation on heat-index readings taken at the practice site and the medical paperwork that allowed Max to participate in sports.
- Berman said Johnson had a three-hour discussion with Stinson at the hospital on the morning of Friday, Aug. 22, where the two went over details of the practice, including water breaks.
- "(Johnson) tells Stinson to write down the order of things that happened at practice," Berman said. "Stinson writes it down, and that gets faxed to us from the hospital." Berman said Johnson also talked with Webb.
- At that point, Berman said, Max was still alive and officials were hopeful he would recover.
- And by Friday's end, the district's initial assessment was that "nothing suspicious had happened." "Keep in mind, we had not heard any complaints, at least none that we knew about," Berman said.
- At 6:28 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, Max was pronounced dead.
- Aug. 25 - Berman said, Burks briefed his administrative cabinet about Max and the “situation at PRP.” "That puts us in a very different situation," Berman said. "We decided we needed to do a full investigation of this..."
- Aug 25 - Berman dispatches Burks to PRP and he met with Stinson, Webb and Brian Shumate, the district's high school liaison.
- Aug 25 -Berman decides to delay a full investigation until after Max's funeral. The investigation is headed by Stan Mullen, the district's director of security. Johnson was told the investigation would now be handled by the district.
- Aug 27 - C-J published witness accounts of practice accusing coaches of denying players water and running them until someone quits.
- Aug 27 (morning) - Mullen calls Louisville Metro Police and is told they have not planned to do a death investigation.
- Aug 27 - (afternoon) Police inform JCPS they will be investigating. JCPS discloses the police investigation.
- The police allow JCPS officials to shadow police investigators in a joint investigation and began interviewing players Friday, Aug. 29.
- Sept. 4 - police discontinue JCPS involvement in joint investigation.
- Sept. 11 - There is some negotiation that goes back and forth, and eventually JCPS receives permission to interview witnesses after LMPD has done their interviews.
- Sept. 12 to 24, JCPS interviewed 91 football players.
- On Sept. 24-25, JCPS interviewed other coaches, Webb and other witnesses.
- Oct 9 - JCPS sends an open records request to police for a copy of their complete investigative file. That request was denied on Oct. 22.
- Oct. 17 - JCPS interview with Stinson canceled by his defense attorney.
- Nov. 5 - JCPS interviews scheduled with Max's parents, were canceled by their attorneys."
"I find it unconvincing that the principal did not even speak to the assistant coaches. And, if he did in fact have a three-hour conversation with Stinson, he did not tell us that under oath"..."I also find it troubling that the principal did not take any notes during this interview, or if he did take notes, he didn't keep them."