By STEVE BRANDT, Staff Writer
Hundreds of students poured out of Washburn High School early Monday afternoon in support of embattled school Athletic Director Dan Pratt.
They were joined by parents and alumi on the school's new outdoor synthetic athletic field.
"All we're saying is this - let the facts come out," said Dave Arundel, a member of the school's athletic Hall of Fame who graduated in 1970. "What did Dan Pratt do that was so wrong or is this a vendetta?"
Pratt had supported the district's efforts to raise money for the field and led efforts to raise funds for its score board, which has not been put up.
Principal Carol Markham-Cousins, who students and parents have cast as the villain in the dispute, said she couldn’t comment on specifics. But she added, “I think people need to be able to express themselves.”
District spokesman Stan Alleyne said that although students say that Pratt has been fired, no discipline has been imposed against him. The district has confirmed that Pratt’s actions are being investigated in a “private personnel matter.”
The group that gathered Monday disbanded in less than an hour of the walkout.
The district issued a statement Sunday evening that said in part: "decisions related to Mr. Pratt’s employment with MPS have been and continue to be made by the school district, not by Washburn Principal Markham-Cousins or other school staff members. The planned demonstration in support of Mr. Pratt will not have any bearing on the outcome(s) of the private personnel matter."
Students and others involved with Washburn athletics said the issue involves whether Pratt obtained proper approvals for the scoreboard that was to be installed when the athletic field was renovated.
Markham-Cousins told parents Friday that the school would be under a code yellow alert Monday because of the walkout. In the voice mail to parents, she said that “many rumors and inaccuracies” have been posted on social media about the situation but did not respond to a Star Tribune offer made through spokeswoman Rachel Hicks to discuss them. Pratt also has not responded to attempts to contact him.
On Friday, Hicks said students who leave the school Monday will not be allowed to return, and students who stay but miss a class period will be considered unexcused absences. In both cases, they won’t be able to participate in after-school activities, the district said. Washburn has two baseball games and a tennis match on its schedule Monday.