The Flambeau school board called for a special meeting on Oct. 3 to go into closed session to vote on hiring an interim school district administrator while current District Administrator Erica Schley is on administrative leave pending an investigation.
A vote was taken before going into closed session and board members Linda Applebee, Julie Hauser and Joel Taylor voted not to go into session. Applebee said she wasn’t comfortable going into closed session.
Taylor believed the meeting was in violation of Wisconsin state statute 120.11(2) which requires notice of special meetings to be delivered to each school board member personally and at least 24 hours before the special school board meeting. Taylor said he received an email to his personal email account instead of what he believes should have been his school account from school board president Sam Stewart. Taylor contacted the other board members requesting the meeting to be rescheduled due to the violation and not being properly noticed. Taylor says Stewart chose to proceed anyway.
The vote passed with yes votes to continue and go into closed session by board members Mike Schuetz, Danielle Zimmer, Pat Anderson and Sam Stewart.
The board members were in closed session for about an hour. Upon returning to open session, board members voted 3-4 to approve the hiring of Michael Cox as Interim District Administrator of the Flambeau School District.
Taylor said that in a previous meeting, Stewart advised the other board members he would be contacting three possible candidates to be the Interim District Administrator and later chose Cox without any input from the other board members, interview processes, resume or background check. When asked about the three finalists being considered, Stewart said he was not at liberty to say who the others were.
According to the Wisconsin’s public records law compliance guide, regarding final candidates the “identities of applicants for public positions should be disclosed whenever there are at least five applicants for an office or position.”
According to Taylor “Stewart claims that the school had an emergency situation that needed action taken.” Taylor felt the situation was initially “created by a lack of planning on the part of the majority of the board members who chose to put Ms. Schley on leave with no plan in place for her absence or for investigation of the supposed allegations.”
When asked about Cox’s qualities he feels are benefits to the school and the position he was hired for, Stewart said Cox has 40 years experience as a District Administrator and had done interim work since his retirement in other districts.
“I can’t endorse a candidate that I know nothing about and has not been recommended by a group that includes board members and other professionals from the school,” said Taylor when asked about why he didn’t vote to hire Cox. The board, according to Taylor, was never presented with any form of a bio or resume to determine Cox’s background, where he has worked and for how long or other important information.
Of particular concern to Taylor is not knowing whether Cox has any expertise in special education. Erica Schley was the acting special education director while the school’s psychologist Brianna Eddington works on completing her education and licensing and gains experience. Taylor says “special education requires additional expertise that is especially critical.”
When asked about how long Cox will be working as the Interim District Administrator at Flambeau, Stewart said for “as long as necessary.” While working as the Interim District Administrator, Cox will be working two days each week and will earn $550 per day.
At this time, there are no plans for a meet and greet for parents and community members to meet Michael Cox.
The next regular session Flambeau school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17.