Legal Reporting

Knaggs’ termination upheld

Story published April 24, 2013
Story published April 24, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf April 24, 2013.

Hearing officer William F. Etter has upheld the termination of former Wenatchee High School teacher Ed Knaggs, claiming that his teaching was effective but his conduct on the day of the student drowning two years ago was “flagrant” and “egregious.” Blame for the drowning was also directed at district and high school administrators.

A decision in Knaggs’ termination appeal was made on April 4 after an administrative hearing that took place during the first week of March. Knaggs, a former PE teacher and baseball coach at WHS, was terminated in April 2012 following the drowning death of freshman Antonio Reyes.

“The hearing officer has upheld the termination,” said Wenatchee School District Director of Human Resources Lisa Turner. She declined to comment further.

Knaggs, his attorney Quentin Batjer, and the school district’s attorney from Seattle, Joseph Derrig, were all contacted for comment, however calls from The Apple Leaf were not returned as of press time.

A copy of the decision made by Etter was provided as a result of a public records request from The Apple Leaf to the Wenatchee School District.

Through student testimony and other facts that were brought out in the administrative hearing, the legal document highlights all key moments leading up to Reyes drowning.

Etter stated in the document: “Mr. Knaggs did not assess A.R. (Antonio Reyes’ swimming capabilities prior to the drowning) because he ‘forgot’,” the document reads. “Because he failed to assess A.R.’s abilities, Mr. Knaggs did not know, nor had he informed himself of the swimming abilities of A.R. when A.R. entered the water on November 17, 2011, during PE class at WHS.”

The district’s document goes on to say that “appropriate care governing the District and WHS forbids them from allowing one to act as a lifeguard while simultaneously teaching a class.”

“The parties stipulated that Mr. Knaggs was an effective teacher,” read the document.

Etter found faults with several school district officials, including Wenatchee School District Superintendent Brian Flones and WHS Principal Mike Franza. “Principal Franza made no improvement to instruction in the swim unit classes prior to the drowning,” read Etter’s document. “Mr. Franza was the person at WHS who was ultimately responsible for student safety.”

“I haven’t seen the document,” said Franza over the weekend. “But that’s true; I don’t have any problem with that.”

Assistant Principal Gracie Helm served as the supervising administrator to Knaggs. “Ms. Helm had responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the fitness component of the PE/Health Department, including the swim unit component,” says the document. However, it goes on to explain that Helm was unfamiliar with several Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) related to swimming pools, the type of lifeguard training that WHS teachers were receiving, and was “unaware whether the ARC (American Red Cross) lifeguarding principles had changed since she was a lifeguard in the mid-1980s.”

“I’m not familiar with that right now so I wouldn’t be comfortable commenting,” said Helm, when informed by The Apple Leaf of the decision. “I didn’t even know a decision had been made,” she said.

It wasn’t until after the drowning accident when the school district and Wenatchee High School put a “handbook” into place. WACs and school district policy require this “handbook” which indicates a mission statement, rules and regulations, and instruction for equipment use, among other specific required policies and procedures.

“If these procedures had been in place on November 17, 2011, it is unlikely that A.R. (Antonio Reyes) would have drowned,” concludes the Wenatchee School District document.

Etter referred to “unique circumstances in this matter.” His final decision indicated that Knaggs’ conduct was “likely inadvertent, unintentional and remediable,” but was in violation of “longstanding and adhered to policies and procedures for student safety.” It described Knaggs’ actions as “egregious” and “flagrant” conduct.

“Despite the best efforts of swim teachers to fulfill all duties required of them by the District and WHS and to protect student safety, the lack of proper training, personnel, and oversight would lead to swim teacher mistakes,” read the legal document.

“A lot of people are disappointed in that finding (an upheld termination),” said AppleSox owner Jim Corcoran. Corcoran oversees Knaggs, the AppleSox head coach. “I thought for sure Ed’s case was a solid one.”

PE department co-chair Maureen Rix declined to comment on the decision.

Legal Reporting

Knaggs appeals termination ruling

Story published May 15, 2013
Story published May 15, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf May 15, 2013.

Former Wenatchee High School PE teacher Ed Knaggs and his attorneys, Quentin Batjer and Lew Card, have appealed a decision to uphold Knaggs’ original termination. The case is now in the hands of Chelan County Superior Court and will follow a process similar to that of the administrative hearing that took place in March. Knaggs lost his job after a student in his class drowned in the WHS pool in 2011.

The notice of appeal is requesting that Knaggs “be reinstated with back pay.”

School district officials received a letter, making them aware of Knaggs’ second appeal, from Superior Court on April 30. State law requires the school district to respond “within 20 days thereafter.” As of press time, the school district had not filed the required documents, which are to include “the complete transcript of the evidence and the papers and exhibits relating to the decision.”

This comes after a long battle between Knaggs and the school district. Originally, Knaggs was placed on administrative leave following the drowning death of freshman Antonio Reyes. Then in April 2012, Knaggs was terminated.

When a certified employee loses their job, Wenatchee School District policy No. 5280 states that the superintendent shall provide a notice of termination and any appeal rights that the employee has along with a notice of the appeals process.

Knaggs did file an appeal, which went to an administrative hearing that was held during the first week of March. Early in April, the hearing officer, William F. Etter, made his decision to uphold Wenatchee School District’s decision to terminate Knaggs.

However, Knaggs and his attorneys claim that Etter’s decision was in error.

“We would like this to play out in the court,” said Batjer. He declined to comment any further on the case.

The Apple Leaf has reported, based on a legal document, that Knaggs’ conduct was “remediable,” in which Knaggs’ attorneys claim Etter “erred in determining that sufficient cause for discharge existed.”

Etter’s findings of fact also stated that Knaggs’ teaching was “effective.” Batjer and Card have countered that claim in their notice of appeals, noting, “If a teacher remains effective, it violates due process for the teacher to be discharged for misconduct.”

Court records indicated that the notice of appeals was served to Wenatchee School District School Board President Jesús Hernandez.

Hernandez explained that the primary focus within the school district at this point is making sure that district administrators take the appropriate measures to avoid “tragedies,” such as the one that Knaggs was involved with.

It is mentioned in the notice of appeals that the school district, WHS, and/or administrators failed to meet their requirements in seven different areas. Those areas range from knowing and understanding Washington Administrative Codes for swimming pool use to ensuring “the appropriate personnel monitored the pool facilities.”

After the school district files its required documents with the court, the case will be heard by a Superior Court judge without a jury. The appeal is to be heard “expeditiously” and “shall be confined to the verbatim transcript of the hearing.” But, the Superior Court is allowed to hear oral argument between the two parties, according to the state laws reviewed by The Apple Leaf.

The judge will then have to make a decision to either uphold the termination, or reinstate Knaggs.

If Knaggs were to be reinstated as his appeal is requesting, Hernandez said that the school district will look at the best way to proceed.

Legal Reporting

Most WHS staffers support Knaggs

Story published May 15, 2013
Story published May 15, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf May 15, 2013.

Most Wenatchee High School staff members interviewed by The Apple Leaf sympathize with Ed Knaggs, saying it would be hard for someone who loved kids to lose a teaching job. Of 14 staffers interviewed, only one completely agreed with the decision to terminate the former PE teacher. Eight staffers said those in leadership, either at the high school or district level, should be held accountable.

Every staffer who was interviewed declined to be identified. Most were leery of sharing their opinion and four declined to comment. One staffer made a reference to their paycheck, implying that even an anonymous comment could result in retaliation.


When the student drowning took place in November 2011, a clear set of pool policies were not in place. “I feel like it was a system failure, not a teacher failure,” a staffer said.

The hearing officer talked about the lack of district policies in his final decision, but since the incident, the school district has implemented a handbook for pool use. “If you don’t have a system in place, people are people, and errors will occur,” said a staffer. “It’s so easy to point fingers and pass blame after the fact,” they added.

A different staffer said that any pool manager in the state would know that “it wasn’t safe” in the pool prior to the drowning.

“I think both parties are at fault,” said one staffer. “Proper procedures weren’t in place, but I keep getting back to two different legal proceedings [that] have [found] negligence on Ed’s part,” they said.

“There’s a larger issue,” said another WHS staffer. To them, it’s “inconceivable” that no WHS administrator was reprimanded. “The situation wasn’t safe and nobody [besides Knaggs] has been held responsible,” they said.

The one staffer who agreed with the school district’s decision to release Knaggs said, “I completely appreciate the position that the school district is in.” The staffer said it would be difficult to justify to parents how a student could be placed in the care of a teacher who previously had a student drown on their watch.

Another staffer thought that the blame, if any, should be passed to school district administrators.

Yet another teacher said no one should be punished to the extent of losing their job. Rather, they believe that Knaggs should have been placed on some type of probationary plan for maybe two years.


In the hearing officer’s final decision document, he disclosed that Knaggs sent a WHS administrator an email 10 days before the accident saying there were “more students than normal who claim they cannot swim.” A staffer noted, “A lot of needs in our district go unmet and often the reason is we don’t have money to meet those needs.”

That was confirmed by another staffer, who said that they understand the PE department did request additional money in their budget prior to the accident, perhaps for more safety resources, but did not receive the funding.

A staffer referred to an “attitude” from the school district administration along the lines of “we [administrators] know what’s best.” The staffer said that leaves some teachers feeling “frustrated.”

After all that Knaggs has been through, a staffer said, “I know now as a teacher [that] if something bad happened in my class, I don’t feel [that] the district office would stand by me.” That staffer doesn’t think that Knaggs has been supported by the district.

Both PE department chairpersons, Ron Reeves and Maureen Rix, declined to comment. “I know they’ve been through hell,” a staffer from a different department said. “They’ve been traumatized too.”


Some teachers discussed what they thought of Knaggs on a personal level. “We always talked and he’s a really nice man; he really loved his job,” a staffer said.

“Teachers want to come out in support of him because we could all potentially be in his situation,” said the staffer who agreed with the district’s decision. “We all know that could be any of us; it’s horrifying.”

“Ed is a fine man and he’s a good teacher and he cared about his students,” a different staffer commented.

Another staffer became emotional during the interview. “The hardest and best part of this job is getting to try and help – and so I cannot imagine his pain,” they said, “and the fact that he can’t be a teacher.”

“It was a terrible accident,” said another staffer, “and sometimes you can’t explain accidents.”

Legal Reporting

Swimming program returns to PE classes; new rules in place

Story published June 5, 2013
Story published June 5, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf June 5, 2013.

Nearly two years after the drowning incident in the Wenatchee High School pool, the Wenatchee School District board of directors approved on May 14 a new program to bring swimming back into the PE curriculum.

New teaching structures will be in place, only freshman identified as “non-swimmers” will use the pool, and the program will begin as a pilot with the intent of expanding over the next few years.

When a student enters WHS as a freshman, they will be required to take a swimming test during  PE class, perhaps within the first month of school, according to WHS aquatics coordinator John Pringle.

Pringle hopes that students will put aside their fear so that “they can be safe themselves and enjoy the water.”

Only students who don’t pass the swim test in September and are identified as “non-swimmers” will be allowed to partake in the swim unit, which would take place during the winter months. If a student is identified as a “non-swimmer” they will have the opportunity to take their swimming lessons outside of the WHS swimming unit in the community, perhaps at the YMCA. That’s the plan for the first year, at least.

Jodi Smith, the district’s assistant superintendent of learning and teaching, said that over time, Wenatchee middle school and elementary school students would be exposed to the program, meaning that the pilot high school program will expand.

“We want to make sure we are preparing our students to be successful around water,” Smith said. “We have a lot of water surrounding our environment in Wenatchee.”

In the proposal to the school board, Pringle estimated that the program would cost about $40,000 for the first year in use. However, looking into the future, Pringle said that his rough estimates indicate that if the program were going to be integrated into only one grade of middle school and one grade of elementary school, staffing and transportation costs could reach $100,000 per year.

The new teaching structure will require five staffers to be in the pool area when PE students are swimming; an aquatics coordinator, two lifeguards, and two paraeducators. Pringle said that it’s an “ongoing process” to determine who the aquatics coordinator for next year will be. Even though Pringle is the coordinator this year, the position for next year was opened up for additional applicants.

Paraeducators will have to apply for the position to assist in the pool. Lifeguards will still need to be hired, too. All of the to be hired pool staffers will need to have a lifeguard certification, but they will receive additional specialized training from Pringle.

None of the current PE teachers at WHS will be involved in the pool activities. Pringle said that was the preference of most of them, who compared it to teaching calculus when they only had an algebra endorsement.

The new program is on track to begin next school year and Pringle will continue to adjust the details of the proposal with district administration.

“I have a heart to make sure that students know how to swim,” said Pringle.

Legal Reporting

Knaggs hearing: undecided judge reveals faults in Wenatchee School District safety procedures

Story published Nov. 27, 2013
Story published Nov. 27, 2013

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Nov. 27, 2013.

A Chelan County Superior Courtroom fell silent as Judge Lesley Allan took her seat. Allan remained calm and civil throughout the hearing, yet her words and tone heavily chastised Wenatchee School District for its failure to provide a safe working environment for PE swimmers and teachers, dubbing expectations as “completely inappropriate.”

On Nov. 15, just two days before the second anniversary of freshman Antonio Reyes’s passing, former Wenatchee High School PE teacher and baseball coach Ed Knaggs took his termination appeal to the next level – Chelan County Superior Court. Due to the length of the case, Allan has not reviewed all of the documents, which has delayed her decision on whether or not to reinstate Knaggs with back pay at least 30 days. The decision will come in writing.

Knaggs was fired in April 2012 following the drowning of Reyes in November 2011. An administrative hearing in March revealed that Wenatchee School District failed to follow state laws and Washington Administrative Codes while overseeing administrators were not up to par with what was occurring during the swimming classes.

In the original decision made by the hearing officer, he indicated that immediately following the incident, Knaggs didn’t know how many students were in his class. He also determined that Knaggs never assessed Reyes because he “forgot.”

Some basis in the hearing officer’s decision derives from the fact that “Mr. Knaggs’s actions deviated from his custom and routine teaching practices and were violative of his teaching duties and responsibilities for the students in his charge. His actions and his conduct likely caused and/or contributed to the drowning of student A.R,” according to his findings of fact document.

The hearing officer dubbed Knaggs’s conduct as “flagrant” and “egregious” on Nov. 17, 2011, which led him to uphold the decision to keep Knaggs unemployed. He determined that Knaggs’s conduct was “remediable.”

Knaggs’s attorney Quentin Batjer said that “egregious” and “flagrant” is on the basis of purposeful conduct, which he said was not the conduct of Knaggs on that day. He described Knaggs’s conduct as “accidental” and “inadvertent.”

Batjer also said that if a teacher has “ongoing effectiveness,” sufficient cause can’t be found to terminate them. He said that Knaggs’s conduct did not “undermine” his effectiveness. Batjer also questioned if a teacher could be terminated for violating a rule that wasn’t verbal, written, followed, or even aware of by district administration.

School district attorney Charles Leitch said that the district is not disputing what they did or did not do to comply with state laws and requirements. He also said that Knaggs’s effectiveness was undisputed. Moreover, they are disputing Knaggs’s conduct to understood processes that were “admitted” by Knaggs.

Allan asked Leitch if any other staffer was reprimanded for the wrongdoing by the high school, however Leitch left that question unanswered in the courtroom. Director of Human Resources Lisa Turner was asked the same question immediately following the hearing, but she referred all questions to Leitch, who has not returned any phone calls.

Allan also asked Leitch if a direct pool administrator would have seen Knaggs fail to assess a person in the swimming class if Knaggs would of been fired on the spot. No clear answer was given.

Batjer said overall that Knaggs is not harmful and that if the teacher is competent, sufficient cause to terminate doesn’t exist.

“Nobody is denying tragedy,” Batjer said.

Batjer noted that three different PE / swimming teachers from WHS testified in the administrative hearing that they had students in the past with unknown swimming abilities, similar to Knaggs, who sunk to the bottom and were rescued by other students prior to losing consciousness.

Legal Reporting

Judge calls for Knaggs’s reinstatement

Story published Jan. 27, 2014
Story broke Jan. 27, 2014

Story broke here Jan. 27, 2014; additional stories published in The Apple Leaf Feb. 12, 2014.


More than 70 days after a Chelan County Superior Court hearing, Judge Lesley Allan ruled on Jan. 27 to reverse the termination order of former Wenatchee High School baseball coach and PE teacher Ed Knaggs. District administrators still remain close-mouthed about what will come next for Knaggs.

Knaggs’ attorney Quentin Batjer confirmed that his order will includes attorney fees, back wages, and reinstatement. Knaggs has been paid through April 2013, Batjer said.

The back wages have yet to be calculated by Wenatchee School District. Knaggs was placed on leave in 2011, and during that school year, a database from The Kitsap Sun reports Knaggs was making $63,307 annually. Knaggs is requesting back wages from April 2013 to present, Batjer said.

The order was supposed to go before Allan today (Feb. 12), but the hearing was cancelled. The order will now go before Allan on a date to be decided. If both parties agree to the order, which Batjer said is unlikely, then the judge will enter the order. If there is disagreement on the wording and stipulations of the order, this will be the time that the parties can argue the details.

“When the order is filed, we will have to have an opportunity to meet with our legal counsel and review it and what options are available for the school board,” Wenatchee School District Brian Flones said, “and we haven’t had a chance to have those conversations, so it would be really premature to make any kind of statement about it.”

Knaggs was terminated in April 2012 on charges of “unprofessional conduct,” “flagrant disregard,” and “gross incompetence,” according to his termination letter, as the person in charge when freshman Antonio Reyes drowned in the high school swimming pool Nov. 17, 2011.

Knaggs appealed his termination, which per district policy, went to an administrative hearing last March. A hearing officer determined that Knaggs’ conduct was “egregious” and “flagrant,” deeming his termination to be justified, and thus upholding the school district’s decision.

Story published Feb 12., 2014
Story published Feb. 12, 2014

A second appeal went before Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan on Nov. 15. Allan ruled that the termination order be reversed.

Wenatchee School District has until Feb. 26 to appeal Allan’s decision. The school board held an executive session on Jan. 28, but still had yet to make a decision on what they will do next. Board President Laura Jaecks declined to comment on any executive session discussions.

“There’s been no discussion to do that (appeal) at this time,” Flones said, in reference to appealing Allan’s decision. “The entire board has not reviewed it together with legal counsel.”

“I am concerned about our community, and this is a really tough thing our community is going through,” board member Jennifer Talbot said. “Know that our board is working very hard and looking at all the information in front of us.”

Talbot urges the community to write to the board through email or letters and provide input on the current circumstances.

“It’s always great to hear from our community,” Flones said. “If somebody is so inclined that they want to express their thoughts, then we will accept them and we will make sure that all the board members and myself have copies of it.”

The pool has since reopened and PE classes are using the pool now. Last spring, the school board passed a new policy that all freshman pass a swimming assessment.

Multiple calls to Knaggs have gone unanswered. Look at The Apple Leaf’s website for updates on the district’s decision and what comes next.


A decision to terminate former Wenatchee High School PE teacher Ed Knaggs in April 2012 has left an impact on many students and teachers at WHS.

Now, almost two years after his initial termination, Knaggs is one step closer to a potential reinstatement after a decision from Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan to reverse his termination order, leaving many in the WHS community pleased and supportive of Allan’s decision, while school administrators defend their actions.

“I think the whole process [the judge] followed was, from what I read, pretty much 100 percent how I feel. I think there was some errors in the process the first time,” PE teacher Scott Devereaux said. “Personally, I would like to see [Knaggs] have his job back if he wants to, but I’m not sure that will happen.”

Knaggs was fired following the drowning of freshman Antonio Reyes during Knaggs’ PE class. “People ask if I’m mad or something…,” Antonio’s brother, junior Jose Reyes said. “I’m not going to judge if he comes back, but it’ll probably be pretty awkward. I won’t be mad if he comes back. That’s just how it’s going to be.”

In in-person interviews, students, just like a lot of staff, are supportive of Allan’s decision.

“It’s a good thing. The judge said [Knaggs’ conduct] wasn’t necessarily malicious. It could’ve happened to any teacher – there wasn’t intention. It was an accident,” senior Sara Phipps said.

“I’m excited. A lot of us are hopeful that he’ll get his job back and coach again,” said junior Jacob Prater, who is a baseball player. “Knaggs is one of those guys you really want coaching on your team because he really gets to know everyone.”

Current freshman and sophomores were not at WHS when the drowning occurred, but have differing opinions. “I might not know enough about it [but] I wouldn’t feel comfortable in his class,” freshman Elaine Stiles said.

“I don’t think students who don’t know how to swim should be in a swim class,” sophomore Brandon Yesiki said.

“I think it’s premature to say what should or could happen, and how the district is going to react,” teacher Jon Magnus said, “But if the judge said [Knaggs] should be reinstated, then we need to respect her decision.”


Judge Lesley Allan noted in her written decision that the hearing officer in the case determined that “the district, through the actions of superintendent [Brian] Flones, principal Mike Franza, and vice-principal Helm, violated the standard of care for the owner/operator of a swimming pool in a multitude of ways.”

“That was a fair assessment,” WHS Assistant Principal Gracie Helm said. “Now, with hindsight, there was a lot more to know, for all of us, in that area.”

WHS Dean of Students Mike Franza, who was principal of the high school at the time of the drowning, still believes the district complied with its requirements. “We met the requirements of the law,” Franza said. “Obviously, [Allan’s] determined that there should be greater guidelines.”

Helm added that in retrospect, absolutely she would have done things differently in oversight of the pool operations. “Anything we can do better to make it more safe, yeah, definitely, no questions asked,” she said.

“I think the hardest part is, every time there’s a ruling made, regardless of what the decision is, the family comes to my mind first and foremost,” Helm said. “As a mom, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to deal with.”

Helm, who was hired in 1997, has been the supervising administrator of the physical education department for a number of years. “When I [was hired], the teachers weren’t even certified lifeguards and at that point in time, I said, ‘You know what, I haven’t lifeguarded for a while – I’m going to bring someone in every two years to recertify you guys’,” Helm said.

Helm declined to comment on any form of reprimand she, or any other district administrator, received for their wrongdoing in “creating a situation where a student could drown,” which served as a key point in Allan reversing Knaggs’ termination order.

“The district has never not taken responsibility for it,” Wenatchee School District Superintendent Brian Flones said. “That was evident in the settlement with the Reyes family.”

Legal Reporting

Wenatchee School Board accepts Knaggs’s reinstatement

Story broke April 17, 2014
Story broke April 17, 2014

Story broke here April 17, 2014; story published in The Apple Leaf April 24, 2014.

Wenatchee School District’s Superintendent’s Office announced on April 17 that it will not appeal the Chelan County Superior Court decision to reinstate former PE teacher Ed Knaggs.

Wenatchee School Board met in an executive session April 16 to discuss the matter. Board member Jesus Hernandez motioned to appeal Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan’s decision, but that motion was not seconded.

“It was a difficult conversation to have considering the stakes that are so high,” Board President Laura Jaecks said. “We realized there are strong feelings on both sides.”

Jaecks is still grieving for the loss of the student at the center of this ongoing litigation.

“With the resolution of this case, it is the hope of the Board of Directors that our community can come together and begin the healing process as we take the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again,” Superintendent Brian Flones said in a statement.

Director of Human Resources Lisa Turner said that even though Knaggs will be reinstated, that doesn’t mean he gets the exact position as when he was fired. However, the law and according to Knaggs’s attorney Quentin Batjer, Knaggs is to be reinstated to his former position.

The back wages will be from April 4, 2013, when a hearing officer affirmed the district’s decision to fire him until March 20, 2014 when the order was entered by the courts to reinstate Knaggs.

Discussions of placement for Knaggs will occur in the coming weeks, Turner said, with Knaggs, Flones, and the teacher’s union.

The district is also required to pay attorney fees of $227,300 as well as back wages, but Turner said that figure has still not been calculated.

Jaecks said that cost was a factor in deciding to not continue the litigation.

“We are relieved that it’s over,” Batjer said. Knaggs was not available for comment this morning.

Knaggs is currently placed on paid administrative leave until the next options are discussed.

Knaggs was fired in April 2012 as the teacher in charge when freshman Antonio Reyes drowned in the high school swimming pool.

“It’s a lesson for all of us,” Hernandez said.