Heated Exchange Between Superintendent, Board Member at SJSD

By Alan Van Zandt | avanzandt@kq2.com

Published 04/10 2014 11:45PM

Updated 04/11 2014 10:36AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph School District superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka took advantage of Thursday's Board of Education meeting to address controversies facing the district.

At the end of the meeting that included a disclosure the FBI had interviewed him and details of an upcoming state audit, a frustrated Czerwonka spoke from prepared notes.

"I didn't create this situation that I walked into last spring," Czerwonka said, referring to his hiring in March, 2013, following the resignation of previous superintendent Dr. Melody Smith.

"Frankly, it was a massive mess," he added. "I wasn't even told about it until I arrived...I inherited a situation I didn't create."

Czerwonka defended the work of his administrative staff.

"(They) have been assailed like they did something wrong...as though they don't do any work." he said. "I'm hear to tell you, they do real work."

Czerwonka again apologized for not going through the board for approving stipends for his administrative staff that totaled $250,000. He then went on to make one request of the board.

"I respectfully ask that you allow me to do the job that you hired me to do. Please allow me to be the superintendent."

Czerwonka's statement was met by applause from most in the standing-room only crowd that had come to the meeting.

However, board member Chris Danford, who brought many of the problems to light at the board's public meeting two weeks ago, responded.

"The superintendent works for the board...and it appears to be the other way around," Danford said. "I think it's real important for the public to understand that the Board of Education is the top layer. Actually, the school district belongs to the public."

Continuing to speak, Danford pounded on her desk.

"Morale in the school is at an all time low, and that has got to change," she said.

She added that not enough time is spent talking about "Kids First," a motto of the district.

All this happened after two newly-elected board members, Kappy Hodges and Lori Prussman, were installed into office. Both women stressed the need for accountability and transparency in their campaigns.

Brad Haggard was elected as president, replacing Dan Colgan. Martin Rucker was elected vice-president.

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