Stillwater Schools Will Investigate a Complaint Filed Against 2 School Board Members

The Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education approved a motion to investigate a complaint filed by a district employee against two Board members during a closed meeting this week.

A complaint was filed against Board Members Sarah Stivland and Mike Ptacek, Stillwater Area Schools Executive Director of Administrative Services Cathy Moen confirmed in an email this week.

Both Stivland and Ptacek have been vocal critics of the School Board’s decision to close three elementary schools.

Stivland was elected to her seat on the Board last November. Ptacek has served on the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education since November 2008.

“We are not able to provide specifics related to the claim or who it was filed by, as that information is private personnel data,” Moen said. “The status of the complaint is pending investigation.”

At the October 10 meeting the board, in a 4-2 vote — George Hoeppner, Paula O’Loughlin, Tom Lehmann and Jennifer Pelletier in favor, Mike Ptacek and Sarah Stivland dissenting and Shelley Pearson abstaining — decided to investigate the allegations made by the district employee. The board also approved the use of Kristi Hastings of the Pemberton Law group to conduct the investigation.

“The district will be working with [Hastings] to make arrangements to do the investigation,” Moen said. “The exact date it will begin and the cost are not known at this time.”

On October 11, Sarah Stivland posted this statement on her Facebook page:

“The Stillwater Area Public School Board voted on Tuesday in a closed session with four votes in the affirmative to launch an investigation in response to a formal complaint submitted by a district employee against me, board member Sarah Stivland, and also board member Mike Ptacek.

The specifics of the complaint and the name of the employee are protected by MN statute until completion of the investigation and when the concern is resolved.

It is my view that this complaint is completely without merit and is an attempt to harass and intimidate me.

It is clear to me now that we have a divided board, and that there are those who feel that this is an acceptable course of action to take against two sitting board members.

It is very disappointing, as our recent and ongoing work with an outstanding and highly regarded board consultant seemed to be leading to better communication and collaboration within our board.

The decision to expend district funds to investigate these ridiculous claims will inevitably hamper our ability to continue to develop more efficient, effective and transparent processes for our board work.

My values lead me to support and demonstrate honest communication, trustworthy leadership, fiscal responsibility and clear decision making with the goal of creating outstanding learning environments for all students.

The action that this board has now taken does not reflect any of these values, and is detrimental to our board, and to our schools.

Regardless of this investigation, I will continue to use my role as a board member to speak up for transparency and fiscal responsibility in representing taxpayers in this district.”

If you have any questions regarding this matter, I encourage you to contact Kathy Moen, Stillwater Area Public Schools Director of Human Resources. Feel free to leave your comments here or you can also email Board Chair George Hoeppner, or any board member with your thoughts. Thank You!”