WALLOWA — Wallowa High School Principal David Howe resigned his position as the school’s girls basketball coach Monday night, March 15, in the face of an official complaint filed by the school’s football team with the Wallowa superintendent of schools March 2.
The outcome of the complaint is pending and still in review.
Head football coach Matt Brockamp, Wallowa Superintendent of Schools Tammy Jones and Wallowa School Board Chairman Woody Wolfe all declined to comment or provide the Chieftain with the text of the March 2 complaint or a second complaint filed with the school board on March 8.
“My duties as principal and my duties as the girls basketball coach seem to be in conflict with each other and therefore I will be resigning my position as girls basketball coach, effective immediately,” Howe said in a prepared statement to the Wallowa School Board on Monday.
Howe’s resignation was precipitated by the complaint as well as allegations of encouraging and supporting Wallowa High School athletes to participate in high school tournaments in Idaho earlier this year. Under Oregon School Activities Association rules, participation in out-of-state sports events requires student athletes to self-quarantine for two weeks after the out-of-state games. Brockamp had protested Howe’s action, out of concern that students who participated in the Idaho basketball games would not be able to play the first and possibly other games in Wallowa’s short, five-game football season.
“As a head coach, I made my concerns known to WHS about unsanctioned, out-of-state basketball tournaments jeopardizing our opportunity to play an OSAA-sanctioned football season,” Brockamp stated at an emotion-charged school board meeting March 8. At that meeting he called for “a fundamental change in Wallowa High School.”
The concerns about Idaho basketball games are coupled with controversy over Wallowa High School’s failure to schedule a replacement game for the canceled Elgin contest, which had been scheduled for March 6.
“I was instructed to tell my football team, which has worked hard preparing for a month outside in the snow, that WHS would not schedule them another home game with another team,” Brockamp said at the March 8 meeting.
Howe’s resignation included an apology.
“I am deeply sorry for any hurt I have caused my students, coaches and community members, staff members or board members,” Howe said in his prepared remarks. “That was not my intent. It was never my intent to undermine other sports programs or coaches. If that occurred, I apologize for that.”
Six parents and Wallowa School District staff at the meeting spoke during the public comment period. Most expressed support for the school, and for Jones, who came under fire at the March 8 meeting, as a competent and caring administrator.
Wallowa first-grade teacher Kelsey Layton praised Jones for “inspiring, encouraging and working alongside of us to build relationships with (teachers) and families during this unprecedented year.”
“Students are the No. 1 concern,” said Melissa Lowe, who teaches Title 1 classes. “We need to remember in our community that education safety and well-being of our students, your children, and education should be first and foremost, not sports.”
But parent Joe Miles criticized the school board for a lack of community and educational leadership.
“I support you guys, but at the same time I do have a higher expectation of anybody in a leadership position,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustrated people in this community.”
Those thoughts echoed some of the comments made to the school board at the March 8 meeting. They included concerns about lack of respect for students, student athletes and Wallowa’s rural culture.
At the well-attended March 8 meeting, the entire WHS senior class presented a letter regarding parts of the school’s mask policy. Specifically, the seniors were speaking against them being the ones called on to enforce the school’s mask mandates rather than administrators. They also spoke on concerns that this year’s senior trip might be canceled due to the seniors’ lack of enforcement of mask-wearing by all students in the high school.
But the trip still is on, Jones said.
It is tentatively planned as a three-day jaunt either to the Oregon Coast or Triple Play Family Fun Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
The final decision on destination and COVID protocols will be made as the date gets nearer, she said.
“I think COVID definitely has placed a lot of stress on families and the community,” Jones said. “The more we can have kids have more normality, the better off the kids are.”