SALT LAKE CITY — A district-level administrator and veteran school principal has been named interim principal of West High School.
On Monday, Stacey Briggs, director of focus schools for the Salt Lake City School District, was introduced at a faculty meeting at the school as interim principal. West High Principal Ford White has been paid administrative leave since mid-November and his status is unchanged, said school district spokeswoman Yandary Chatwin.
Briggs, who holds a master’s degree in education leadership from Brigham Young University, previously worked as the principal of Ogden High School and Highland Junior High in the Ogden School District and as an assistant principal at Provo High School, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was formerly a math teacher and is bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, according to a letter to the community from the school district released late Monday.
Briggs helped start two International Baccalaureate programs, including one at Ogden High School, which has similar demographics to West High School. West’s International Baccalaureate program is decades old and considered a hallmark of the school.
The latest letter by Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Lexi Cunningham sheds no light why Ford was placed on paid administrative leave, and White has declined to comment on the situation.
“While our policy remains to not comment on personnel matters, what I can share with you is that student safety has been our No. 1 focus throughout this investigation,” the letter states.
White’s attorney, Michael Teter, declined to comment on the district’s decision as the investigation is ongoing.
An Instagram post from the account @westhighspam and an email authored by a West High teacher and obtained by the Deseret News last month detail a situation involving three intoxicated students on school grounds on a school day. The incident occurred on Nov. 14 about 11:30 a.m. on the school’s southwest lawn, according to the email.
The message to Salt Lake City School District officials states that the teacher, upon finding the students, asked White if he knew what was going on, then disagreed with him when he replied he thought they were OK. The email says the teacher approached the students and smelled alcohol.
According to the teacher’s email, “Ford told (one of the students) to go and get her car so she could take the other two students home.” The teacher then voiced concern about the students driving after apparently drinking, the email states.
After further discussion, White got in the driver’s seat of the student’s car and drove the students home, the email said, while Assistant Principal Ron Litteral followed in his own car. The teacher said police should have been called, as per district policies, but they were not.
The teacher also declined to comment about the incident or the email.
White has served as principal of the school since 2017, according to district school board minutes. Litteral temporarily served as acting principal in White’s absence.
On the morning of Nov. 19, hundreds of West High students walked out of class to support Ford.
The walkout was quiet and calm as students made their way out of the building and onto the school’s east lawn. But the protest ended when a fight broke out after about 30 minutes of the students chanting “We want Ford!” and “Give us back our principal!”
According to the “Principal’s Message” on the school’s website, White describes his position as “the best job in Utah,” explaining that he had been on a decadelong journey to work in an inner-city school somewhere in America.