Shakopee Public Schools Superintendent Rod Thompson is set to resign Monday, and his opponents in the community are in awe that their digging got him ousted.
Residents posted their relief on social media and expressed optimism that the school district could move past Thompson's troubled tenure and a $4.5 million budget shortfall.
"At the end of the day, he needed to go in order for our district to heal, regroup and go forward," said Carrie Ferris, a parent with children in the district.
Shakopee's community of 40,000 has been vocal in its outrage over Thompson and lack of transparency in the district since Thompson e-mailed staff in March that a human error had led to a more than $4.5 million budget shortfall.
The e-mail led members of the community and a Facebook group, Concerned Citizens of Shakopee, to launch their own inquiry into the superintendent. Their questions, augmented by reporting by the Shakopee Valley News that detailed Thompson's use of a district credit card, led to a police investigation and a search warrant issued on Thompson's property last week.
The search warrant affidavit refers to purchases of more than $3,500 that Thompson made, including a TV and a trip to Nashville with his wife. The affidavit said Thompson said he reimbursed the district for purchases he made with his district credit card. Thompson stated that the charges were "unintentional."
School district officials said that Thompson had a history of not turning in his credit card receipts on time.
"If people didn't keep pushing it forward, it would have stayed status quo and we would have been stuck with him for another three years," said Heather Berndt, community member and parent.
A group of 14 from the Facebook group, including Ferris, banded together to look into the budget error, but their investigation quickly focused on Thompson.
Ferris said each of the members tackled a part of the investigation, from requesting receipts and scanning contracts to meeting with board members. A member of the group requested information about school district spending, as did the Shakopee Valley News.
In May the Shakopee Valley News disclosed the September 2016 Nashville trip and reported that Thompson had traveled out of state extensively, along with other school district administrators. The newspaper reported that after it questioned the trip, Thompson wrote two reimbursement checks.
"For it to come to light and for the truth to come out, it is very reassuring," Ferris said.
The school board will hold a meeting Monday to accept Thompson's resignation and approve his separation agreement. The board has announced a community comment period following the resolution presentation.
At a meeting in March over the budget error, hundreds showed up to voice their concerns and demand answers from the board.
Anthony Bonsante was on the school board in 2011 when the district hired Thompson. He said he was not surprised that the community took the investigation into its own hands.
"Shakopee has a very strong rooted community that will back their school if it is the right thing to do," he said.
With Thompson departing, Shakopee parents are now concerned about the future of their growing district, which will unveil a new addition to the high school in 2018. Tim Johnson, who has two children in the district, said Shakopee still has a reliable team of administrators and teachers with which to move forward,
"This is major bump in the road," he said. "But with all of the rest of the strong, great people in this district — we are going to weather this storm."
The school board declined to comment on Thompson's resignation, and Thompson could not be reached for comment.