Published May 11, 2023
BY RILEY PALSHAW
Amid all of the recent turmoil in Carmel Unified School District, from the dismissal of Carmel High School principal Jon Lyons to the placement of Superintendent Ted Knight on administrative leave and more, many CHS students have noticed a negative shift in the general atmosphere on campus as anxious attitudes rise and questions remain unanswered.
This domino-effect of CUSD commotion began Dec. 16 when Lyons was placed on a leave of absence pending district investigation, eventually leading to his dismissal Feb. 7 for improper handling of a student sexual harassment case. Shortly after, former president of the Board of Education Tess Arthur resigned on Feb. 16, and just over a month later Knight was placed on administrative leave during a special board meeting March 31, also pending investigation into his handling of sexual harassment and assault within the school district.
With no interim principal currently filling in, many CHS students are baffled at their school’s state.
“Our school is going through something that is hard to fathom,” says freshman Racey Chisum, who will be next year’s Associated Student Body treasurer. “With the loss of a principal and all of the chaos going on, I think it’s hard for us to stay connected as a district. CHS students have grown apart, as a school and community.”
It seems to be an uncomfortable situation for students to be a part of, and a shift in the mood on campus over the second semester has certainly been observed.
“Teachers are grouchier, students are sadder, parents are angrier, and the board seems to be in over their heads,” says current sophomore class president Stella Nunez. “I really do miss not only the school, but the district we were at the beginning of the year.”
One concern shared among students is the amount of confusion surrounding the removal of Lyons, an event that’s left a lot of room for speculation and gossip.
“The overall student body does seem to be talking quite a bit about any and all rumors about the current turmoil,” sophomore Erin Ikemiya says, “which has led to a lot more anxious energy.”
Yet for some students, it’s business as usual, and even if they’re aware of the current district troubles, they feel it doesn’t have much effect on them.
“I don’t feel it has affected things at school very much,” senior Nikos Douros says. “The assistant principals are doing a very good job as leaders of the school.”
In the absence of Lyons, CHS assistant principals Craig Tuana and Debbi Puente have taken on responsibilities of not just helping run the school, but also managing student, staff and parent outreach. But even with their aid, students haven’t been consistently hearing from one primary source like they would if a principal were in the position.
“It is strange getting emails from so many different new people,” Douros says. “One week it’s one principal, the next week it’s another, the next week it’s the superintendent, the next week it’s just from CUSD. It’s just weird that every week it seems like a new person is put on leave or is gone.”
Of course, while communication from administrators is valuable, ultimately teachers are the only CHS staff that students are interacting with on a daily basis, and so their reactions to the recent disorder in CUSD have quickly been picked up by the kids in their classes. Teacher response to district unrest has differed across campus, with some choosing to not address it with their students, while others have made clear their opinions.
“I’ve had some teachers who will completely allocate class time to have a full conversation about everything that’s been going on, their involvement and much of what they know about the situations,” Ikemiya says. “Most other teachers seem frustrated about this and have chosen to not acknowledge it during class.”
Senior Athena Wilson has sensed a shift in the energy from teachers as the situation in the district has gradually unraveled to its current status, remarking that teachers have seemed to be more frustrated and many have been left feeling undermined.
Between the district’s leadership woes and the uncertainty that’s been attached with it, many students say their questions and concerns about the future of their school and the rest of their education in CUSD have been left unanswered. Although a search for a new principal is underway, that hasn’t settled every nervous stomach.
As freshman Julien Cho says, “The question still floats in the quad with what is happening with Mr. Lyons and Ted Knight.”
How has the state of the district affected campus energy?
Amber Cabrera Lopez, junior
“Teachers talk about it a lot, and they’re always making comments and remarks. It does have an impact on how they’re teaching now because they feel overwhelmed and keep talking about how this school district is going downhill.”
Grant Xu, junior
“It’s kind of weird to know that something is going on. There’s a lot of big changes happening, but we don’t know anything about it.”
Cassidy Bullas, senior
“This issue hasn’t really affected me. The biggest change would probably be the gossip circulating about the principal and what happened.”