Reshetar resigns from L-O superintendent position, district faces uncertainty

Published 9:16 am Saturday, July 20, 2019

After prior warnings, the LeRoy-Ostrander interim superintendent announced on Friday that he will be resigning at the end of the month, possibly leading to a dire future for the school district.

Superintendent Jerry Reshetar, in a critical letter addressed to the LeRoy-Ostrander School Board, shared that he planned to resign from the interim superintendent position. He will finish off his contractual requirements from July 22 and effectively end his leadership on July 24.

“My trust in the LeRoy Ostrander School Board to function as a team in support of their students was substantially fractured at the July School Board Meeting (sic),” the letter reads. “Quite simply, unethical behaviors and actions by selected board members are below my standards for effective operation of a public school.”

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When the Austin Daily Herald reached out to Reshetar, he declined to comment on the board’s alleged behaviors, but stated in an email that he’s not certain about the district’s future.

“I simply could not develop a level of trust with myself and the board to accomplish our goals,” Reshetar said. “LeRoy-Ostrander will need to find a new superintendent. Not sure of the future of the school district, as a qualified leader is very important.”

Reshetar, who was appointed as interim superintendent back in January, was chosen by the L-O School Board to replace former superintendent Jeff Sampson after the community had been embroiled in months of controversy over his alleged handling of an investigation of Principal Aaron Hungerholt and teacher Trevor Carrier, according to a previous story. It resulted in the two getting stripped of their coaching status, but both were reinstated into their teaching positions. Eventually, the board voted to give back the pair’s coaching privileges. Reasons behind the investigation were never revealed to the public.

The arrangement between L-O and Reshetar was supposed to be temporary until Reshetar could start finding the right person for the permanent position. However, he had planned to stay at L-O until he felt satisfied that the district was willing to move forward and heal from the past.

Only a couple months after his appointment, it became clear that the man had enough.

“The school district suffered through personnel challenges this past winter that damaged the credibility of not only the school, but the community,” Reshetar said in his resignation letter. “It is obvious that this is beginning again. I simply will not be a party to it.”

Jerry Reshetar when he was superintendent of Grand Meadow Schools. Reshetar has submitted his resignation to the LeRoy-Ostrander School District where he was serving as an interim superintendent. Herald file photo

The resignation didn’t come as quite a surprise to Angie Olson, L-O School Board member. She shared that this was not the first time that Reshetar had warned the board that he would resign if they didn’t fully support his recommendations to improve relationships in the district.

Back in April, the superintendent expressed his frustration about struggling to work with board members.

“We are at a crossroads with my capabilites to work with this board and your capabilities to work with me,” he wrote. “One of the perceptions of those outside of your school/community is an attitude of ‘if we lose or don’t get our way, we will get even.’ This is an attitude that is resident with some adults and has filtered its way into athletics. This attitude has been the culture of this school/community for a long time, long before Mr. Sampson’s tenure.”

The April letter also went on to state that though Reshetar was willing to give everyone a fresh start, it became apparent that many weren’t willing to move on from the past.

“My advice to all to start the healing process, ‘whatever has happened in the past, let it go,’” it reads. “That has not happened as I continually hear all the bad about Mr. Sampson and observe a quest to get rid of those who were supportive of him. And now, I’m being referred to as just another Mr. Sampson.”

Reshetar went on to offer two options to the school board. Option one included granting the superintendent the time to improve employee performance if standards were not met and was “told by individual board members they would not support this.”

He had also asked for support from the board on assigning coaches who were also subjected to the same performance standards, which met resistance from some board members by Reshetar noting “you have the same coaches applying. I’ve been told by individual board members they would not support this and this is an explosion that will occur in May.”

He also asked that the district cease all conversations and discussions about Sampson in or out of the school building and to “stop micromanaging the superintendent. Trust the superintendent to get his job done.”

The second option allowed the board to do as they wish with assigning coaches for the 2019-2020 season and leave the superintendent out of the decision process, choose their own contracts or end them with neighboring school districts and, finally, choose a new interim superintendent as soon as possible.

“Choose wisely,” the document read. “Your school district is in crisis.”

Reshetar assisted the district in setting a long-range plan to change the culture within the school and in the community. An example of that was the focus on holding teachers and coaches accountable, as well as supporting leadership teams and holding assessments on their progress in meeting their objectives linked to their long-range plan of improving the district’s culture. All coaches needed interviews before getting rehired and the athletic director would need to assess their performance in meeting standards, correct issues and help them grow.

That fell apart during Tuesday night’s board meeting when Reshetar recommended rehiring Reid Olson as the athletic director and community education director. The majority of the board shot down the motion in a 2-5 vote.

Later on in the meeting, Reshetar shared a draft of an evaluation of several administrative positions with their objectives, including the athletic director position.

“Here’s your chance to turn a corner and make a difference,” he said. “In order for this to happen, board members, you have to support your leadership team…The principal has to hold teachers accountable for meeting standards…your athletic director in making sure coaches do what they say they would do in the documents they sign. This is a chance for everybody to pull the oars in the same direction and function as a team.”

After receiving little support from the majority of the board, Angie Olson, who voted to rehire Reid Olson,  shared she was not surprised that Reshetar decided to move on from the district.

“After the board vote on Tuesday night, I’m not at all surprised, but still very disappointed,” she said. “Things need to change at L-O, and Jerry was the person who was trying to take us in the right direction. Many well-respected community members believe Jerry was the answer to make changes and move forward. Pushing to resign is detrimental.”

An uncertain future

Reshetar’s resignation means that L-O will be without a superintendent until someone who is licensed can assume the role.

This poses a distressing situation for the district. Under state law, no high school can operate without a superintendent leading the district. With Reshetar resigning, L-O will not be able to open this fall unless someone can take his place. No hiring processes had started earlier in the school year to search for another superintendent.

Now, time is of the essence for L-O.

“I hope that some changes can be made,” Olson said. “But, when a second superintendent leaves in the district in a very short period of time, it’s difficult to believe things will change or that we will be able to get anyone to want to walk into this mess.”

The Austin Daily Herald contacted board chairman Steve Kasel, but the call was not returned.

Reshetar’s resignation is on July 24, nearing a time when teachers and staff are expected to start heading into their classrooms to prepare for the upcoming school year. However, if a replacement is not found, then “there’s probably a possibility” that many will be out of a job and students won’t be able to attend school in L-O.

The gravity of this situation did not seem to reach the community, Olson expressed, and she implored individuals to come together and find solutions, otherwise the fate of the district will be sealed.

“People need to understand how bad this really is,” Olson said. “Down the road, that’s probably a possibility. I hope it doesn’t get to that point. Jerry had not started the process to find someone new because we weren’t quite to that point. All we can do is reach out and hope.”

Now that the ball is in the school district’s court, what happens in the next month will be crucial in determining whether school will be open this fall. From this situation, Reshetar emphasized that the ones who will suffer the most from this are the students.

“In the strongest words I can convey, shame on all of you,” he closed in his letter. “Your students do not deserve this. I gave you a chance. You should have taken it.”