Different voice speaks out about controversies at Thomas Jefferson High School

Thomas Jefferson High School has been at the center of controversy for a sizable segment of vocal parents. From the implementation of new policies, to questions about school leadership, TJ has been a hot topic at Federal Way School Board meetings dating back to last spring.

In all of it, there has been little comment made by those who saw no problems at TJ. During the Oct. 25 meeting of the board, TJ parent Joe Williams said he felt TJ’s new programs and policies are good ones, and that former principal Marsha Denton may have ended up being the sacrificial lamb due to the district’s leadership failing to properly engage and communicate with the TJ community.

Williams touched on the accelerated academics program, saying he feels it gives an opportunity to those who normally wouldn’t be exposed to it.

“If there isn’t a good fit between that student and the course, the student has the opportunity to opt out,” Williams said. “So when I look at that, it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.”

Standards based grading was the next program Williams touched on. He feels the policy helps eliminate external forces when it comes to student grading.

“(It’s) a program, that from my perspective, attempts to drive out any subjectivity, and possible favoritism that might exist in a grading system,” he said. “If this program is aimed at making sure all students, whether they’re quiet, unpopular or just misunderstood, are graded the same as the gregarious, popular or other well adjusted students…that seems like it’s trying to promote fairness, so I can buy into that.”

Williams touched on the perceived controversy surrounding former TJ principal Denton, who was reassigned last month to an administrative position at the district’s central office. Denton was the target of some TJ parents’ frustration.

Williams said that with the large amount of change that took place at TJ and throughout the district in the recent past, the burden was on the district to make sure there were open lines of communication in order to ensure that the change was as smooth as possible.

Williams said he never had a bad interaction with Denton, and feels that she ended up being the “fall guy” for the district’s lack of leadership.

“I have been in numerous meetings with the former principal, in one on one and in group settings,” Williams said. “In all of my dealings with her, she has always demonstrated a high level of professionalism and courtesy. Even when circumstances called for much less. In all my dealings with her, I saw she had a true and genuine concern for all of the students.”


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