Karl Waggoner is charged with luring a minor for sexual exploitation
By Dana Trumbull
As information was released Tuesday afternoon about the arrest of Four Peaks Elementary School Principal Karl Waggoner on charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation, vans from the valley’s major news networks lined up across the street from the school to catch whatever inside info they could snag.
According to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Waggoner was arrested near the school as he was on his way to work Tuesday morning after taking the previous week off for vacation.
“Last week, our investigators began an investigation after seeing an online ad for teenage girls to come out for a skinny dipping party at a pool in Scottsdale,” stated Lamb in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “One of our investigators responded to this ad as a 14-year-old girl.” As the investigation continued, “He lured that ‘teen’ in, was explicitly sexual in his discussion and exchanged explicit photos.” Waggoner has admitted to his behavior and is currently booked into the Pinal County jail, where he is being held on $100,000 bond.
AJUSD administrators were conspicuously present on the Four Peaks campus Tuesday as school let out for the day; Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson, Director of Educational Services Heather Wallace and Cactus Canyon Junior High Assistant Principal /AJUSD Athletic Director Chad Cantrell were readily available to speak with parents and offer whatever reassurances they could. Cantrell will be serving as acting principal at Four Peaks until further notice, while AJHS Art Teacher and Cross Country Coach Dr. Tina Harshman fills in as Athletic Director.
Students leaving the school had nothing else to talk about: “Our principal was arrested today,” declared one child to his parent. “He asked girls to come to his house to go skinny dipping in his pool,” a young mother explained to her daughter. “No, honey, he won’t be coming back.”
AJUSD administrators sent a letter home with FPES students stating that the district is cooperating with law enforcement agencies in the investigation. Additionally, each AJUSD school has a behavior coach/counselor onsite and available to students. “We encourage students to reach out to their counselor as needed. Although we have no reason to believe that Mr. Waggoner engaged in any improper conduct with district students, should you or your child have any information that you believe will assist the Pinal County Sheriff’s office with its investigation, please directly contact the Sheriff’s office, at (520) 866-5111.”
Waggoner was hired at AJUSD on July 18, 2017, unanimously recommended by a hiring committee composed of certified and classified Four Peaks staff members, an elementary school principal, a parent and assistant superintendent Dr. Jennifer Cruz. “We have heard outstanding feedback from the previous communities that have worked with him about his ability to build culture, his deep caring for students, and for setting high expectations and having high performance,” Cruz stated in her presentation to the AJUSD Governing Board at that time.
Waggoner was vetted through normal screening procedures, including the requirement of a fingerprint clearance card issued by the Department of Public Safety, a minimum of three verbal and/or written recommendations (four references were used in Waggoner’s screening, reaching back 15 years) and I-9 forms processed through the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system.
As Lamb pointed out in the press conference, “This was not a novice to education; this is somebody who has spent decades in the educational system in Texas as a middle and high school teacher and administrator.”
According to Lamb, PCSO is in communication with the counties in Texas where Waggoner previously lived and are working with them to find out if there are any additional victims in that area. Lamb added that there is no evidence of actual harm to a minor as yet; however, the investigation is ongoing.
Sources in Texas state that none of the schools where Waggoner previously worked had any disciplinary actions on file for him. Eanes Independent School District in Austin, TX, released a statement saying, “At no time during his approximately 18 years in Eanes ISD was there any indication of inappropriate behavior with students… Prior to his hire, he passed all criminal background checks. As a cautionary measure, however, we ask any current or former students to contact Eanes ISD Human Resources if they have information that could lead to an investigation related to Mr. Waggoner’s time in our schools.”
Round Rock ISD (also near Austin, TX) sent a letter home to parents stating that, after two years as principal at the middle school, “Mr. Waggoner left the Hopewell [Middle School] campus in August 2016 prior to the beginning of the school year. He requested a reassignment and was given a position at central administration as associate director of administrative projects. Mr. Waggoner left Round Rock ISD earlier this year and had recently been hired as principal of Four Peaks Elementary School in Apache Junction, Arizona when the arrest occurred… News such as this is certainly upsetting to us all, and we want to emphasize to our parents, students and staff that we have no indication that Mr. Waggoner engaged in inappropriate conduct with students while employed by Round Rock ISD or in his previous employment.”
Meanwhile, the Texas Education Agency has launched an investigation to determine if they should revoke the teaching certification that Waggoner still holds there.
Waggoner holds a bachelor of science in education from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and a master of education administration from Houston Baptist University.