Integration school district acts on personnel issues

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • January 30, 2013 - 9:26 PM

The board of the west metro school integration district moved Wednesday night to hire an outside investigator and law firm to look into a complaint against its superintendent.

The West Metro Education Program's board acted in response to a complaint against Superintendent Daniel Jett, 68, who has headed the 11-district joint powers district since 2003. Jett did not appear at the session.

The board also authorized its chair to hire an outside firm to provide administrative services to the district, but did not specify at which level -- school level or running the district -- those services would be provided.

Also approved after a two-hour closed board meeting was the sending of letters to two employees, Principal Kevin J. Bennett, 37, and an unnamed second employee. The content of those letters has not been disclosed, but Ann Gearing, an attorney for the district, said more information may be available once they are delivered.

The actions followed a period of intense staff speculation leading up to the meeting after it was posted that the board might be considering a staff resignation.

WMEP runs two schools intended to bring more racial balance between Minneapolis and 10 west metro suburban school districts. The schools in downtown Minneapolis and Crystal are known as Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resource School, or more commonly as FAIR.

Bennett has been principal of both schools after initially being hired at the Crystal school in 2004. The district on Jan. 3 confirmed to the Star Tribune that it was investigating a complaint against Bennett, and on Tuesday a district official said she believes that investigation is complete. However, its content has not yet been revealed. Bennett had been away from both schools since Jan. 18, according to the district, but returned Wednesday.

Bennett was named middle school principal of the year in early 2012 by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals. A backpack containing that award was stolen from his car last September, according to a St. Paul police report. That incident occurred in the evening near the home of a FAIR teacher. In a recent court document, Bennett said he was living near there.

The resignation of that first-grade teacher, Brooke Boettcher, was accepted by the board Wednesday night as well. Efforts to contact Boettcher, Bennett and Jett were unsuccessful. An attorney who claimed to represent Bennett, Clayton Halunen, said via e-mail that Bennett would not comment but that he has no plans to resign.

Jett was superintendent of the Minnetonka school district for six years. Upon his departure from that position, he engaged in two court battles over insurance coverage.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib

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