Big news was made Monday night when the Sioux City School Board approved an agreement that ends the tenure of the school district's Chief Financial Officer John Chalstrom after a controversy that received little public airing. But a scathing comment made by a school board member minutes before that action calls into question a portion of the agreement she voted for soon afterwards.
The Journal in a Sunday investigative piece aired the first details that surrounded the background of Chalstrom being placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 13. The piece detailed a series of allegations Chalstrom leveled against superintendent Paul Gausman.
Two days after Chalstrom -- through an intermediary, Dan Greenwell, who is a frequent district critic -- shared a list of Chalstrom’s concerns with school board members, he was placed on administrative leave. In a statement, Gausman has strongly denied the claims.
Following a 1 ½ hour closed meeting Monday, the board voted 5-2 in open session to approve the separation agreement with Chalstrom. Under the deal, he will resign effective June 30, coinciding with the expiration of his contract, and receive three additional months of pay and health insurance benefits.
As part of the agreement, Gausman agrees to write Chalstrom a positive letter of recommendation. Additionally, the agreement, in the sixth of eight points, reads, "In their public and private dealings with one another, the parties agree to treat each other with respect and professional courtesy and to refrain from making derogatory comments about one another."
Therefore, what board member Jackie Warnstadt said 20 minutes before the agreement was signed (without comment by the board members) raised a few eyebrows.
During the time when board members can address any topic, Warnstadt expressed frustration with some messages she received from the public recently.
“I am totally out of patience with an uninformed public who seems to be listening to a disgruntled employee and a disingenuous citizen who appears to be exercising a vendetta against a great superintendent,” Warnstadt said. Though not mentioned by name, she appeared to be referring to Chalstrom as the "disgruntled employee" and Greenwell as the "disingenuous citizen."
After Warnstadt finished her comments, which appear to have been from a prepared statement, all nine district administrators present at the meeting stood and applauded enthusiastically.
Warnstadt followed by saying she isn't a "rubber stamp" for Gausman, and routinely questions administrative actions in the district.
Warnstadt was among five of the seven board members who voted for the separation agreement just 20 minutes later. One way to look at it is that her comments came before the agreement became finalized.
Another viewpoint is that Warnstadt's comments, at a minimum, violated the spirit of the agreement. Her comments undoubtedly referenced Chalstrom and may run afoul of the portion requiring Chalstrom and district officials from refraining from derogatory comments about each other.