South Washington County School Board Member Katy McElwee-Stevens was censured by her colleagues this month after admitting to disclosing private personnel data received from the district’s law firm.
The 5-1 vote came on Jan. 8 and centered on the contents of a letter sent to board members by the law firm on Nov. 4, 2014.
Board Chairman Ron Kath, reading from a board resolution, did not identify the subject or subjects of the letter. But the correspondence was dated two days before the abrupt resignation of East Ridge High School Principal Aaron Harper — who had been the target of allegations that triggered a district probe.
Kath said that McElwee-Stevens admitted in a Nov. 24 interview with a school district attorney that she made at least five statements to an unspecified individual involving elements of the letter. But, Kath added, McElwee-Stevens said “she did not think she was doing anything wrong” because she originally learned most of the information from another source.
“McElwee-Stevens knew, or reasonably should have known, the importance of maintaining confidentiality,” Kath said. “Board members are expected to serve as role models and must adhere to all legal and ethical requirements. Ms. McElwee-Stevens failed to fulfill this expectation.”
The board resolution censuring her also put McElwee-Stevens on notice that the board would initiate action to remove her if she were to engage in the same or similar conduct in the future.
Voting against the resolution was Board Member Katie Schwartz, who said that the penalty was not severe enough.
McElwee-Stevens, of Newport, worked for the district between 2003 and 2013 as a paraprofessional at Newport Elementary School. Twice, she received interim board appointments before finally winning election to a four-year term in 2013.
The action against McElwee-Stevens occurred during the same week that the district released documents about the Harper investigation that showed Harper had been accused of using district funds to purchase iPads, gift cards, a personal membership to Sam’s Club and other items. The district said then that it had investigated the complaints but did not make any formal findings. Police now are investigating Harper for alleged public misconduct.
Fundraiser planned for injured student
A benefit is set for Saturday, Jan. 24, for a Forest Lake Area High School senior who was seriously injured in a traffic accident while on her way to school on Nov. 6.
Jessica Erickson, a member of the Rangers girls’ basketball team, lost control of her pickup truck on an icy bridge deck and was struck by an SUV, splitting the truck in half, the State Patrol said.
Erickson, who was wearing her seat belt, suffered head and neck injuries and had to undergo 6½ hours of surgery to relieve swelling and bleeding in her brain and to stabilize her neck, according to her CaringBridge page.
Since then, she has regained her speech, and is undergoing extensive physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Saturday’s fundraiser is being held at the Forest Lake VFW, 556 SW 12th St., and includes a silent auction and bake sale from 12 to 8 p.m., a spaghetti dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. and live music from 6 p.m. to closing. Tickets are $10.
For family updates on Erickson’s condition and recovery, go to: www.caringbridge.org/visit/jessicaerickson.
Also, a community Facebook page has been created for her at “Jessica #30Strong,” a title inspired by her jersey number.