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Petition filed against SL School Board leaders

Monday, March 3, 2008

A petition for removal of office was filed Monday afternoon against Spirit Lake School Board President Beth Will and Vice President Ann Goerss.

Under the Iowa Code section 66.3 (3) such a petition may be filed by five registered voters of the district where duties are to be performed. Taking legal action against the school board leaders are Valentine Waltz, James Naujock, Elizabeth Simpson, Jeanne Lathrop and Deborah Wise.

According to court records, the document was filed due to "numerous, blatant and continual violations of the Iowa Code" as well as school board policy codes and Iowa Administrative codes. The petition goes on to say violations have been "a continuous, habitual condition going on for five years. The Board of Directors have violated multiple Iowa Codes, as well as their own written policy, procedures, rules, regulations and code of ethics."

The group called for the removal of school board leadership rather than the entire panel because they feel as though the officers are responsible for the standards, practices, protocol and tone of the entire board.

Among the specific codes mentioned in the petition are violations of open meetings including public notice, closed session and employment condition discussions, authorized expenditures, publication of proceedings and financial report. Among alleged violations of school board policy codes were the code of ethics, agendas, complaints made before the board, minutes of open meetings and guiding principals. Iowa Administrative Code alleged violations addressed in the petition include general standards and budgets, among others.

The Spirit Lake School Board called a closed session meeting to discuss imminent litigation for Tuesday afternoon but cancelled it about an hour before the meeting was to take place.

Controversy has surrounded the board in recent weeks following the forced resignation of Spirit Lake High School Principal Jedd Sherman and subsequent rejection of his request to rescind his resignation. A local group formed in reaction to the board's conduct called C.A.R.E.S. (Coalition for an Accountable and Responsible Educational System) was worried that a series of 50 questions asked of officials last week may not be answered due to the upcoming litigation.

"C.A.R.E.S has been informed by [SL Interim Superintendent Douglas Latham] that the answers to the questions from the public, which we were promised on Monday, Feb. 25 are not available at this time, and would not reply when they would be available," said C.A.R.E.S. President Joe Vander Laan. "We hope that the petition filed by concerned citizens of the community will not affect the board and superintendent answering the community's questions. We know that this is a very passionate issue on both sides and hope that forward thinking people can come together to resolve these issues."

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