Helix to Stay a Charter School

By Rory Devine
|  Friday, Apr 30, 2010  |  Updated 9:06 PM PDT
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Helix to Stay a Charter School

Accusations and denials fly Wednesday about whether more cases of improper sexual contact between teachers and students involving Helix Charter High School have taken place than were previously reported.

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Helix to Stay a Charter School

Helix High School will remain a charter school within the Grossmont Unified School District.
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A settlement has been reached. Helix High School will remain a charter school within the Grossmont Union High School District (GHUSD).

In February, the district had set in motion a plan to revoke the charter status after four cases of sexual molestation involving teachers and a fifth case involving an administrator who helped a student leave school without permission.

Losing that status would've meant the school could no longer act independently of the district and still receive state money.

In the settlement, the principal of Helix, Doug Smith, has agreed to resign.

On April 27, 2010, the GUHSD Board ratified the agreement in a 5-0 vote in closed session. The Helix Charter High School Board ratified this agreement in a 6-3 vote Friday, according to a joint media statement.

Between 2006 and 2008, four teachers were arrested and convicted of sexual misconduct with students.

Band director Jessica Kahal, 22, was arrested in October 2007 for having sexing with a 17-year old student. She pleaded guilty in February of 2008 and received three years probation.

In December 2006, Frank Palumbo, a band teacher, received five years probation after pleading guilty to having sex with a 17-year old student.

In May 2008 a geography teacher and coach of the girl's soccer team was arrested for having sex with a student in a hotel room. Garry Wilcox, 44, taught at the school for 13 years and was accused of having sex with the student when she was 16 or 17 years old. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in August 2008 to one year in custody followed by probation.

In September 2009, Jeff Wenham, a former Helix High School Advisor, pleaded guilty to committing a lewd act on a minor after his relationship with a 17-year old female student was discovered. In this case, the student had come to Wenham for help to get out of a sexual relationship with another Helix teacher. Wenham received three years probation.

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