Top recruit’s tweet leads to athletic director’s firing

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

It's become common wisdom to remind everyone to be careful what they transmit across social media. Consider this tweet sent out in January 2011 by superstar hoops recruit Tony Wroten Jr. exhibit A in what can happen when one isn't quite so careful:

"just me and my 2 bros. we got a 3 person Spanish class. #Niccceeee."

Garfield basketball star Tony Wroten Jr.
Garfield basketball star Tony Wroten Jr.

Not surprisingly, officials at Seattle Public Schools, which oversees Wroten's Garfield (Wash.) High, were none too thrilled to get surprising notice that Garfield had established a three-person Spanish tutorial class, particularly as budget cuts force more and more students into crowded classrooms. Soon thereafter, they discovered many more academic irregularities, including the fact that Wroten Jr. and a classmate had been given passing grades for a non-existent class led by the school's athletic director.

According to the Seattle Times' terrific high school sports reporter Mason Kelley, SPS launched a formal investigation into what led to the class being established, eventually finding that Garfield athletic director Jim Valiere had set up the course in conjunction with Garfield principal Ted Howard for Wroten and fellow senior Valentino Coleman, in large part as a way to ensure Wroten would qualify to attend the University of Washington, to which he has signed a scholarship offer.

Yet the only reason why Howard signed off on the course was because Wroten and Coleman were allegedly given passing grades for a completely non-existent Spanish class led by Valiere in 2010, though both students said the athletic director never formally taught them and rarely did more than offer occasional quizzes in the hallway between classes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Valiere was fired after the conclusion of the investigation, officially notified of his termination on April 11. The longtime athletic coordinator is still fighting his dismissal and has requested a formal hearing into the matter.

"The investigation they had going was just to find more dirt to try and bury me," Valiere told the Times. "I was really trying to teach them Spanish. I really wanted them to learn."

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Christian Caple, Wroten Jr. didn't seem to have learned his lesson from the publication of The Times' investigation, as he returned to social media shortly after the publication of Kelley's story to respond ... in a rather inadvisable way. Shortly after Kelley's story was published Thursday, Wroten Jr. responded publicly with this tweet:

"Lol this guy @masonkelley be lying. Lol we r retarded now? Lol yea OK. I guarantee it wouldn't even b a story if MY name wasn't in it. Lol Its koo though cause you will NEVER get another interview with me. Never again. Now retweet that. Lol."

The superstar recruit has since deleted that tweet and fired off a series of social media communications telling the world how important Spanish is as a language, insisting that he fully intends to continue learning Spanish. Evidently he'll do that last part quickly so he can still enroll in Washington in September.

Unfortunately for Valiere's hopes to have his own penalty reversed, there are a number of extenuating conditions that seem to undermine his contention that he was ever licensed to provide an independent study period for the students, let alone help set up the two-student tutorial, which Wroten and Coleman are still partaking in. Howard insisted that Garfield did not ever offer independent study credit, and that he never signed off on any agreement for Valiere to teach the duo himself.

In fact, Howard claims that he was the one who initiated the unique Spanish study group for what he considers to be altruistic reasons.

"I felt like we owed those kids and parents credit and also an education," Howard told the Times.

"Now the question that became a really big issue at Garfield was: How were the kids going to get the credit and not be penalized?"

The solution was certainly a unique and virtually unprecedented one, though it's also one that Howard and Valiere almost certainly would have preferred to keep quiet. Unfortunately, Wroten foiled those plans himself in the blink of an eye with one simple tweet.

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