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Jacobus: Speculation of problems in School District 833 'not accurate'

Superintendent Keith Jacobus used a video statement to address questions about recent resignations in South Washington County Schools. (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube)

South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus took to YouTube to address lingering questions about the recent departures of key district administrators.

The district on Thursday released a video statement from Jacobus in which he said it’s common for school employees to seek new positions in the spring and that speculation about the recent exits in District 833 could “damage professional reputations.”

Jacobus said there has been speculation that because some school officials have decided to leave, there must be problems within the district.

“I want you to know that that is not accurate,” he said.

The video, which doesn’t mention or discuss any of the specific resignations, comes on the heels of multiple news reports about the departures of Dave Bernhardson and Keith Ryskoski, both assistant superintendents who answer directly to Jacobus. Their resignations were accepted on the same day in March, effective June 30. Neither man has commented about circumstances related to their resignations. They each earn $139,828.

At the time of the two resignations, neither Bernhardson nor Ryskoski said he had another job lined up. This week, the Inver Grove Heights School Board announced that Bernhardson is among six people who will be interviewed for that district’s superintendent position.

Also last month Jacobus’ executive assistant, Mary Amidon, left. She signed a resignation agreement that put her on a leave of absence for most of March and paid her the equivalent of her salary for that time. She earned $70,132 annually. The agreement also included a clause that said Amidon acknowledges the district treated her fairly and that she cannot make any false or disparaging comments about the district or its leadership and employees for two years. Doing so could result in a $4,000 fine.

Last week, District 833 School Board member Jim Gelbmann announced he is resigning in the middle of his term. He cited a busy work schedule, and health and personal issues. Gelbmann was to be the subject of a closed session of the School Board last week to discuss his shaky attendance at meetings, but he offered his resignation and the closed session was cancelled.

In the video statement, Jacobus said data privacy laws prohibit school districts from talking about personnel issues.

“This is a normal time in education for people to look at new opportunities and career moves that may advance their knowledge and advance their skill set,” he said.

School employee contracts run from July 1 to June 30, Jacobus said, and spring is the “one window” of opportunity for school officials to explore new jobs.

“The speculation behind some of the transitions have the potential to damage professional reputations and I want you to know that we are in complete support of the changes that are taking place,” Jacobus said. “And we have an amazingly bright future ahead of us in the South Washington County School District.”

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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