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Report of the Earlham School Board President: In the Matter Relating to the Alleged Improper Use of School District Property

posted Jul 23, 2012, 9:15 AM by Michael Wright

Just before the Fourth of July holiday weekend in 2011, Business Manager and Board Secretary, Jodi Stroud, found that her car would not start following her day at work.  In order to get home, she borrowed a 1997 Chevy Cavalier owned by the school district.  She informed Superintendent Wright about her situation and her use of the School District car as soon as she returned to work.  She expected to replace her vehicle shortly and asked Superintendent Wright if she could continue to use the school vehicle in the meantime. She offered to pay the District for the use of the vehicle.  The Superintendent agreed that she could continue to use the school vehicle while she was in the process of replacing her personal vehicle, and agreed that she pay the District for her temporary use of its vehicle. 

 

Although the arrangement was initially intended to last only a matter of days, Ms. Stroud’s use of the school vehicle lasted several weeks.  The arrangement came to the Board’s attention after Ms. Stroud was involved in a motor vehicle accident and the District’s vehicle was a total loss.  The District was able to recoup the amount of the loss from its insurer, less the District’s deductible.   Ms. Stroud paid the amount of the deductible.  Ms. Stroud also paid the District for her use of the vehicle on a per mile basis. Since then, the Board has not decided to replace the vehicle.

 

            At the time, Board Policy 1004.6 provided a means by which community groups could borrow school equipment.  That policy also provided that personal use of school equipment by employees or local citizens was “discouraged.” 

 

            The Board reviewed the situation in August and September of 2011. The Board disapproved of the actions of Superintendent Wright and Stroud.  The Board considered the disciplinary action already taken against Stroud by the Superintendent and took disciplinary action of its own against Superintendent Wright.  The Board later revised its policy to clarify its position on private use of District property.  The Board Policy now provides that personal use of school equipment by employees or local citizens is “prohibited.”


 

 

            Thereafter, the Board was contacted by the Iowa Citizen’s Aide/Ombudsman in relation to the matter.  The Board, Ms. Stroud and Superintendent Wright provided all materials requested by the Ombudsman and cooperated fully in the review of the matter by the Ombudsman. On July 6, 2012, the Ombudsman rendered a report that confirmed the factual circumstances previously understood by the Board.  The Ombudsman made certain legal conclusions based on those facts, and the Ombudsman offered certain recommendations: 

 

·       The Ombudsman concluded that there was an impermissible private use of public property, but the Ombudsman did not find any loss to the school treasury. 

·       The Ombudsman noted and approved that the Earlham School Board already changed policy to clarify that District property should not be used by any individuals for private purposes.

·       The Ombudsman recommended that the Earlham School Board reconsider disciplinary action against Superintendent Wright and consider disciplinary action of its own against Ms. Stroud. 

 

The Board has received and accepted the Ombudsman’s report.  The Board has reconsidered the matter and the District’s response to the matter.  The Board has held a hearing with Superintendent Wright and Ms. Stroud at which time the Board reconsidered disciplinary action in light of the Ombudsman’s report.  Ultimately, the Board resolved to

1.         Ratify the previous disciplinary action regarding Superintendent Wright,

2.         Take certain disciplinary action regarding Ms. Stroud, and

3.         Thank the Iowa Citizen’s Aide/Ombudsman for its service to the District and its assistance in seeing that this matter is resolved.

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