NEWS BLOG (WSAU) An open letter to the Wausau school superintendent candidates:
Dear Superintendent Candidate:
Welcome to Wausau. This is a great small city, and it has a very good school district that we can all be proud of. My children attend the Wausau Public Schools, and overall I’m happy with what’s happening in their classrooms.
I’m sure you are qualified to lead our schools. You wouldn’t have made it to this stage of the process if you weren’t.
But there is one area where Wausau School District leadership has failed, and I hope you will make a specific commitment to address the problem. We have had high-profile violations of law involving school district staff, and the cases have not been handled correctly. Specifically:
• A high school coach was having a long-running sexual relationship with a student-athlete. The victim’s mother became aware of the situation and notified police. He is now in jail. But we learned in the weeks that follow that many staff members had suspicions about this relationship, some to the point where they questioned the suspect about it, but none followed their mandatory reporter status as required under Wisconsin law.
• A teachers aide is accused of molesting at least two students. His trial is pending. School officials delayed reporting the incident to police while they conducted their own internal investigation, again violating Wisconsin’s mandatory reporter laws.
• An Athletic Director misused money that was intended for sports teams. Some of the money was raised by students, and it was spent on his personal expenses including a trip that had initially been refused by the Board of Education. He was allowed to make restitution and quietly retire with minimal police involvement.
I'm not suggesting that there is widespread lawlessness in the district. There isn't. Wausau Public Schools employ hundreds of people, almost all of whom are honest, hard-working, and care about the children they serve. These are three high-profile cases that have become public. There are likely other cases that have not. There is very little public confidence that these cases will be handled properly by our school leaders.
In each case, the school district has been slow to respond and lacking in following the law. They’ve finessed serious problems in favor of wrongdoers, instead of first protecting the interests of students. Can you assure us, unequivocally, that this will change if you become our leader? If you can answer yes, our Board of Education should consider you for this job. If not, you aren’t the person our schools need at this time.
Tomorrow, an open letter to school teachers.