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History lesson: Federal Way's first school scandal?

H. J. Winter came to Federal Way to be principal of the high school in May 1938.  - Courtesy photo
H. J. Winter came to Federal Way to be principal of the high school in May 1938.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

With the retirement of Thomas Murphy as superintendent and the hiring of Robert Neu as his replacement, interest has developed in knowing about earlier Federal Way School District superintendents.

The present Federal Way School District 210 was chartered on May 22, 1929. The five smaller school districts that became consolidated were North Edgewood, Adelaide, Star Lake, Steel Lake and Redondo.

Consolidated School District 210 was initially only intended to provide school for grades one to eight. A newly built school opened in September 1929 with three stories, a kitchen, gymnasium, auditorium, eight classrooms and two playrooms. J. F. Sinclair was the first principal. He was hired from the nearby Algona School District. There were five teachers to instruct around 130 students.  Sinclair was soon given the responsibility of superintendent by the school board. Charles Springer became principal by 1936, but he was never referred to as superintendent in school board minutes.

The original building, with some additions, was also opened as a high school in September 1938. H. J. Winter had come to Federal Way to be the principal of the high school in May 1938, and immediately was also given the title of superintendent for the one-building school district. He stayed on as principal until 1939. For two years, Winter apparently did his job as superintendent adequately, but in late 1940, Winter became involved with a financial scandal. The school board dismissed Winter on Dec. 17, 1940. He then disappeared. The school board was non-committal concerning what had happened and would not respond to questions from reporters. Their only comment was that it was “for cause.”

The exact date of Winter’s departure from the area was not known. His wife was in California for the Christmas holiday and when she returned on Jan. 5, 1941, she found a note from Winter saying he would not be back. Mrs. Winter continued to live in their home at Redondo Beach with their 8-year-old-son, Herman. She refused to comment on the issue and only said she would hear from him “when he found himself.”

Winter’s disappearance followed several months of financial difficulties during which time he was sued twice and adjudged bankrupt. He owed money to several individuals and businesses, and the court found at least one account where his personal and school funds were intermingled. Garnishment procedures were filed with the school district to collect the money owed. Winter filed a bankruptcy petition in federal court on Nov. 1, 1940, listing liabilities of $3,721.26 and assets of $166 due to him from the school district. His annual salary was $3,000.

Concerning Winter’s absence, “the children noticed Mr. Winter was not there,

but none of them thought a thing about it,” one school board director commented. Kenneth C. Jones, principal of the high school, was named as acting superintendent and also stayed on as principal of the high school.

Rumors exist that Winter was let go because he was a German spy, but no evidence of this has been found.

KENNETH JONES: The third superintendent

The third superintendent, Kenneth C. Jones, was a major influence in the development of the early growth stages of the Federal Way School District. Jones spent the final 27 years of his career involved with Federal Way schools.

Kenneth Jones was raised in the northeast part of Washington. He graduated from Oregon State University with graduate work at the University of Washington. His first teaching assignment was at his alma matter, Chattaroy High School, near Spokane. He taught three years at Chattaroy and Wilbur High Schools.

Jones started his career in Federal Way as one of the newly hired junior high school teachers in 1938. In September 1939, Jones accepted the principal’s post at Federal Way High School. Four months later, on Dec. 17, 1940, he was elevated to the superintendent’s position when Herman Winter was dismissed on short notice.

In addition to his administrative duties, he continued to teach three classes daily. Jones was highly thought of and was said to have the “esteem and love of his staff and pupils.” Jones had a reputation of being soft spoken and a soothing, patrician figure. Jones indicated that the high school, opened in 1938, was considered very modern for the time.

At a school board meeting in April 1964, Kenneth Jones verbally requested that his contract not be extended beyond its expiration of June 30, 1966, as he intended to retire at the end of the 1965-1966 school year. He formally announced his resignation on Dec. 8, 1965, to be effective June 30, 1966. The official retirement date is listed as July 1, 1966. During his tenure, the school district grew from 500 to 15,000 students.

In 1968, King County voters approved the Forward Thrust Program to add many needed recreational facilities. The Federal Way Forward Thrust Swimming Pool opened in February 1971. It was named the Kenneth Jones Pool in honor of his long career with the school district. The pool is located on 16th Avenue South, adjacent to Federal Way High School, and was dedicated April 15, 1971. Jones attended the dedication. Officials in attendance included King County Executive John Spellman, Councilman Dave Mooney, County Park Director George Wyse and Federal Way School Superintendent Murray Taylor.

The Federal Way pool was the second county operated pool completed under the Forward Thrust Program. Both the community and school district had access to it and enjoyed it for 30 years. The county turned the pool over to the city of Federal Way in the early 2000s. When the city of Federal Way Community Center opened in March 2007, with a fully modern pool facility, the Jones Pool was turned over to the school district. Currently the outdated Jones Pool is boarded up and future plans are undetermined.

Kenneth Jones died from cancer at age 65 on Oct. 1, 1971.

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