A May 13 story on the resignation of the acting Wilson High School principal, Maude Lamont, contained several errors.
The story implied that Lamont was under investigation by Portland Public Schools for taking narcotics from the school's evidence room. The story also stated that a locked file cabinet in the evidence room was meant for the safekeeping of narcotics and weapons confiscated on school property, and WW mistakenly believed the contraband associated with the investigation of Lamont was categorized as narcotics. The school evidence room was meant to house any contraband confiscated on school property. WW does not have information that the contraband associated with the investigation of Lamont was properly categorized as narcotics.
The story said that if Lamont had disposed of contraband herself instead of contacting a school resource officer, she would have violated PPS policies. PPS policies state "contraband will be destroyed or held for School Police and stolen items will be returned to the owner or the police." The story also implied that Portland Police Bureau procedures for handling evidence are PPS's procedures and that Lamont would have violated PPS policy by failing to follow police procedures. This is not the case.
WW regrets the errors.
Original story, May 15, 2019:
Maude Lamont, a Philadelphia native who has been acting principal of Wilson High School since 2018, resigned this week after WW asked Portland Public Schools if it was investigating her for taking narcotics from the high school's evidence room.
The announcement of her resignation came May 13, three days after WW asked the school district questions about the alleged February incident.
The district is not speaking about the reason for Lamont's resignation. "We are aware of the allegations and are taking all appropriate steps to address them," says district spokesman Harry Esteve. "It is a confidential personnel matter, so we are not able to discuss details." Meanwhile, Lamont did not respond to emails and a letter from WW.
The alleged incident took place Feb. 14, when, several sources tell WW, four Portland Public Schools employees were walking out of a drug and alcohol hearing at Wilson. They noticed Lamont and another administrator in the evidence room down the hall, standing with their backs to them, rifling through a usually locked file cabinet meant for the safekeeping of narcotics and weapons confiscated on school property.
"I saw Maude Lamont and [vice principal] Jason Breaker in the evidence room. I knew that as the room that has all the drugs in it," one PPS employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, told WW. "Maude was back there, stooped over with envelopes."
Beyond that, in an email obtained by WW dated Feb. 19, a Wilson employee asked Lamont's secretary what had happened to some of the evidence kept in the drug room—specifically, envelopes that were later found empty. The secretary replied she didn't know but assumed Lamont had disposed of the envelopes' contents.
If so, that would have violated school policy and protocol about how to handle such evidence.
When school district staff members confiscate drugs from students, Portland Police Bureau policy says only bureau members are supposed to handle the delivery of confiscated narcotics to a central district property evidence room.
School resource officers are supposed to follow bureau property and evidence handling procedure, which states that a chain of custody must be maintained by signing property evidence receipts for confiscated property and materials.
Several Wilson staff members told WW the school didn't even start keeping this kind of log until March 6, 20 days after Lamont was first seen in the evidence room.
The district declined to comment whether Wilson High School was in compliance with district and police policies.
None of WW's sources knew what type of confiscated evidence was in the file cabinet Feb. 14.
But the event spurred an investigation into Lamont, who had worked at Wilson for 15 years.
On April 3, PPS denied WW's request for records regarding Lamont because of "a pending personnel investigation" of her.
WW reached out to Lamont and the district May 10 about the allegations. She never replied. But on May 13, PPS assistant superintendent Joe LaFountaine told Wilson staff at a 3:30 meeting that Lamont had resigned.
Being a principal of a large high school is like being a mayor of a city. Principals delegate staff assignments and manage the school's budget and personnel. They also oversee investigations into students who violate school policy.
Lamont's ascent to the helm of Wilson came last fall, after longtime Principal Brian Chatard suddenly resigned a few days before the start of the school year.
A parent of a soon-to-be graduating senior at Wilson heard rumors about the alleged incident involving Lamont from a teacher in April.
"Given the nature of issues Wilson has had this year," the parent said, "I don't find anything unbelievable at this point."
Correction: An earlier version of this story described an April school district meeting regarding a potential firing. The district now says that meeting was not related to Lamont.