News

Jefferson High principal resigning, won't say why

By MIKE HALLIDAY

Staff writer

The principal at Thomas Jefferson High School plans to resign at the end of this school year.

George Ilgenfritz presented his resignation to Federal Way Public Schools superintendent Tom Murphy in March. He has been with the district since 2000.

Steve Smith, president of the TJ Parent Movement, asked the School Board at a board meeting Tuesday to encourage Ilgenfritz to stay. Other school administrators told Smith they were planning to resign because of Ilgenfritz’s departure, Smith said.

“He is a highly capable person,” Smith said.

The board, typically, doesn’t get involved in school personnel matters. Murphy hasn’t commented on Ilgenfritz’s resignation.

Ilgenfritz declined to elaborate for the Mirror on his resignation, but said he has enjoyed working with the students at Jefferson.

“I absolutely love this high school. I love the kids,” he said.

Ilgenfritz has been at the center of controversies this school year. At the beginning of it, some students, teachers and parents were upset when he removed a popular teacher as adviser of the school’s student government and leadership team.

In October, Ilgenfritz was placed on administrative leave and suspended by the district for 20 days without pay after an employee at Jefferson filed a complaint against him.

Then in late November, a social studies teacher was put on paid administrative leave after district officials learned his students had been writing to a convicted rapist and murderer. The teacher, Dave Reynolds, required one of his classes to write to one of his former students serving time at the state correctional facility in Monroe. Students from his other classes could volunteer to write. A female student in Reynolds’ Northwest history class agreed to write to Michael Koehler, but when her mother discovered the inmate was sending sexually explicit letters to her daughter at home, she told school officials, including Ilgenfritz.

In a letter to Reynolds, Murphy said he had significant grounds to fire Reynolds. Reynolds has since left the district on his own, according to district officials.

Ilgenfritz pointed to several successes at Jefferson since he arrived. Overall, state assessment scores of students have increased in math and reading. The writing score jumped from 57.6 percent in 2001-02 to 72.9 percent in 2002-03, then settled back to 69.9 percent in 2003-04.

The school and its students have had several academic honors, including a U.S. Presidential Scholar nominee, the largest number and percentage of students taking the SAT of all the Federal Way high schools, and the highest SAT scores, particularly in math.

The school’s math team has won the state championship several years in a row.

Ilgenfritz added the school has had 12 National Merit Scholar candidates and two Washington State Scholars.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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