Concerns raised over BoE President’s email to staff
The day after the February primary that trimmed the field vying for three seats on the Merrill Area Public Schools Board of Education to six, Board of Education President Lin Kautza sent an email to the teachers and staff of the district thanking everyone for their support. It went on to urge them to vote for her and either Chuck Bolder, Jeff Verdoorn or John Schull for the other seats.
The fact that Kautza used her official MAPS email account to send the email to Interim Superintendent Don Stevens’ secretary to be sent to all staff to send a political message has some on the board and in the community upset. The problem is further compounded by the fact that Kautza is out of the country on vacation and cannot respond to the issue.
Stevens said he wasn’t aware of the email until after it had already been forwarded to the staff.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t here when that email was sent out. But I did learn of the email shortly after I was out at one of the schools and returned to my office,” Stevens said. “I immediately recognized that it could be a concern, there’s no question about that.”
As to what may happen to Kautza over the email is still very much in the air, Stevens said.
“We are talking with legal council to find out what is the array of potential legal consequences,” Stevens said. “The truth of the matter is I have felt strongly from the beginning that there are many perceptions about this and the only person who can really talk about those perceptions personally is the person who drafted the email. I think President Kautza needs her day to talk with the rest of the board members.”
Vice President Bolder, who has been leading the board in Kautza’s absence, agreed.
“If someone is being accused of something, I think they have their right to respond, in person,” Bolder said.
Bolder said that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” about the email before it was sent, even though his name, along with other candidates Verdoorn and Schull. The first time he saw the email was when it was shown to him by a WAOW Newsline 9 reporter last week. Stevens said after that, the email was forwarded to all board members so they would be up to speed on its contents.
The matter will be placed on the agenda for the next board meeting, at which time Kautza will be allowed to answer questions from the other eight board members.
“I think the reaction from board members and the community is truly as diverse as there are members on the board and the community,” Stevens said. “I don’t want to indicate how some are thinking because I truly haven’t talked to the board members about this.”
Bolder would not speculate as to what Kautza’s intent was in sending the email.
“I said to myself I would not have sent this particular email. She did and she must have had a reason for it,” Bolder said. “I have not talked to Lin at all about it at all, so I can’t tell you what her reason was.”
Stevens said that the board members are concerned with what Kautza’s thinking and motivation was when she sent the email.
He added the district is still waiting to hear from its legal counsel as to what possible repercussions could happen as a result of the email.