Students respond to Phil Winston story

    Phil Winston was under investigation for misconduct during the time of his decision to step down from his principal position. Photo by Veronica Weber.

    Former Paly principal Phil Winston was under investigation for misconduct during the time of his decision to step down from his principal position at Palo Alto High School. Photo by Veronica Weber.

    Palo Alto High School students are responding to a Palo Alto Weekly story detailing former Paly Principal Phil Winston’s notice of misconduct, which was received by him last summer.

    The story contains numerous examples of alleged misconduct by Winston towards both students and staff. Many of the examples in the Weekly story are related by a staff member or parent who claimed to have seen the situations unfold.

    There is now push back on social media from some students who saw no misconduct from Winston during his time at Paly.

    “This Winston story is completely a misrepresentation of Mr. Winston as a guy,” junior Phil Lewis said. “I had the pleasure of knowing him well, and he really cared about each individual. It’s a shame that he was forced to leave Paly because now the students are stuck with a misconception of him as a person.”

    Not only current students, but also Paly alumni, disagree with the claims made about Winston.

    “During my time at Paly I never witnessed Mr. Winston doing or saying anything inappropriate,” said Paly alum Olivia Maggi, Class of 2013. “He would always talk to students and was very friendly, but I thought that was good. I thought he was very involved with students’ lives and cared about how they were doing. It made me feel like he actually cared and supported us. When I read the Weekly’s story about Mr. Winston, it made me sad that this could happen to him. I feel that words can sometimes be taken the wrong way and that Mr. Winston was never intending to be inappropriate. I think he was very good at his job.”

    However, now some students said they felt uncomfortable with Winston after reading the article.

    “Honestly, I was pretty on board with the ‘Chill Phil’ thing, too,” senior Jessica Feinberg said. “After reading the evidence and documentation against him and having discussions with teachers and fellow students, I feel a really sick sense of being used. He created a good rapport with students … but he used that as a shield to protect him from these allegations because it became nearly impossible for students and teachers to report their harassment. His popularity among students — this shield — allowed a culture of silence to be created, where speaking up would create backlash against those who spoke. And I was part of that shield.”

    Winston argued against six specific allegations made against him by sending a letter to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Scott Bowers on June 14, according to the Weekly.

    “It is always disappointing when statements or conduct are misinterpreted, but I understand that this is going to happen from time to time, and I do my best to avoid such misinterpretations,” Winston said to Bowers. “I am certain I can do still better in that respect and I will take these comments as a learning experience that will help me further improve.”

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