WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Fort Madison School Board to Let Superintendent Contract Expire

Jul 17, 2019

It appears the Fort Madison School District will be in the market for a new superintendent.

School Board President, Dr. Tim Wondra told Tri States Public Radio in an email Tuesday afternoon the board plans to take no further action on the contract of current superintendent, Dr. Erin Slater. He said that means Slater’s contract will be allowed to expire June 30, 2021.

Wondra said the school board will start the search for a new superintendent in late 2020, barring the board changing its mind on the contract or Slater resigning to take a new job.

“When [former Superintendent] Dr. Ken Marang was in the final year of his contract, we started the search process in late November/early December,” said Wondra. “That is the ideal timeline to follow when conducting superintendent searches. You get the best candidate pool in January/February and then, typically, the quality of the talent pool decreases with each passing month.”

The board’s decision follows a lengthy evaluation of Slater. The evaluation took more than five hours to complete, spread out over three closed-door meetings held within the past six weeks.

Wondra said the board evaluates the performance of the superintendent each year. He said it normally takes place earlier in the calendar year.

“We were delayed in getting Dr. Slater's [evaluation] done on time due to the turnover of board members at the regular scheduled time,” said Wondra. “I was then late getting the evaluation forms out to the board members and scheduling the evaluation.  The first closed session was a normal scheduled closed session but in between scheduling the evaluation and the closed session the unfortunate events unfolded.”

The “unfortunate events” included a news report regarding an email sent by Slater that expressed concerns about playing time for high school baseball players, and a claim by a high school coach that Slater threatened his job over how he distributed playing time.

Wondra said the school board discussed buying out Slater’s contract, which pays her more than $180,000 annually.

“A major responsibility of the school board is to consider the financial ramifications of all actions and be good stewards with taxpayer money,” said Wondra. The budget is already set for this year and any major financial changes would have large trickle down effects on the whole district and cause many unintended problems.”

Slater declined Tri States Public Radio's request for comment regarding her future with the Fort Madison Community School District. Instead, she referred us to a statement issued by herself and the school board following Monday night's meeting.

"The Fort Madison Community School District takes its responsibility to ensure that all studentshave the opportunity to receive an engaging, integrated, rigorous educational experience veryseriously. We, as a Board of Directors and a Superintendent, frequently refer to the District’sbeliefs and vision statement to remind us of the route we must continue to pursue to meet theeducational needs of all FMCSD students. These beliefs and this vision statement are read aloudat every Board meeting, and can be found on the District’s website athttps://www.fmcsd.org/school-board/. One of the most critical parts of providing an outstanding educational experience for all studentsis having employees who are committed to the District’s beliefs and vision statement. TheDistrict has a strong, diverse, dedicated group of employees. The District’s teachers, coaches,associates, custodians, maintenance employees, secretaries, bus drivers, bus monitors, supportstaff, food service employees, administrators, and Superintendent are all working toward theDistrict’s shared goals and objectives. As with any organization, there are times when individuals - including students, parents,employees, or community members - raise concerns regarding the District’s employees. In thesescenarios, people often have differing views and opinions regarding what occurred and whatshould happen next. Whatever the views held by these individuals, ultimately it is up to theemployee’s supervisor to appropriately investigate, discuss, and take any appropriate remedialaction to address the concerns that are raised. This process allows all employees a fairopportunity to understand and respond to the concerns and ensures that concerns are beingappropriately handled. Based upon recent media coverage, it appears this is what has occurred recently at FMCSD -different people have different views of what has occurred and what should occur related to theSuperintendent’s conduct. Upon learning of possible concerns, the Board followed the processthe District utilizes for all employees and looked into and addressed the concerns directly withthe Superintendent. The matter has been appropriately handled by the Board. Iowa law requiresthat the District keep any personnel information regarding a District employee confidential.Therefore, the District cannot make any statements or provide any information related to anyemployee personnel matter, including this matter involving the Superintendent. The Board affirmatively states that it supports Dr. Slater and her leadership of the District’seducational program and of all FMCSD students and employees. There has been great progresswhile Dr. Slater has served as Superintendent, and we look forward to continued progress thatwill bring more positive experiences for FMCSD students and employees."