Exodus of school leaders does not signify trouble, South Washington County board chairman says

  • Updated: May 3, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Superintendent and school board chairman deny South Washington District is withholding any info on four administrators’ resignations.

The resignations of four top administrators in the South Washington County School District over the past two months has fueled speculation that there is trouble brewing in one of the state’s largest districts.

But in firmly worded statements, the district’s superintendent and school board chairman said that’s not the case.

School board Chairman Ron Kath said the personnel moves are not a negative reflection on Superintendent Keith Jacobus or his administration but, coming as they have in the spring, are part of the normal course of business for school districts as a new budget year approaches on July 1 and job opportunities arise elsewhere.

Kath offered the statement during the April 24 board meeting, and addressed, too, the lack of information shared by the district involving the resignations, which he attributed to the disclosure limits of the state’s data practices act. The absence of fuller explanations for the departures has fueled speculation that “there must be a problem,” Jacobus acknowledged recently in a YouTube video statement, adding: “That is not accurate.”

Said Kath, “I’d like the community to know there is no story — that the district is not hiding any information.”

When he issued his statement, Kath was speaking about three administrators — Dave Bernhardson, Aaron Bushberger and Keith Ryskoski — all of whom plan to work through June 30. The resignation of a fourth administrator, Randi Anderson, was approved by the board during the same meeting.

A fifth employee, Mary Amidon, executive assistant to the superintendent, resigned on March 6 under an agreement with the district.

On March 20, the board accepted the resignations of Bernhardson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, and Ryskoski, assistant superintendent of secondary education. Their decisions weren’t explained, but a statement about them was posted on the district’s website. “Both leaders are looking forward to new opportunities and requested a simple announcement so they could continue to focus on serving the students in our district as they complete the school year,” it said.

Bushberger, the district’s finance director, and Anderson, director of teaching and learning services, are leaving for jobs in the South St. Paul and Eden Prairie districts, respectively.

“Eden Prairie is a well-known district, and I am thrilled to be in a new role defined by their leaders that aligns with my values to personalize learning for all students,” Anderson said in a statement on the South Washington County website.

Kath, after reading his statement on April 24, invited three board members to comment. The three — Tracy Brunnette, Laurie Johnson and Katie Schwartz — said they agreed.

In an e-mail to the Star Tribune, Board Member Katy McElwee-Stevens said she also backed Kath’s statement.

Two other two members, Jim Gelbmann and Sharon Van Leer, did not respond to a request for comment under the time frame requested by the newspaper.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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