Menomonie School Board censures board member Jim Swanson | Wis.Community

Menomonie School Board censures board member Jim Swanson

August 14, 2020 - 8:08am
protesters
protesters at meeting

Special Menomonie School Board Meeting

In a contentious meeting this morning, the Menomonie School Board voted 5-4 to censure board member Jim Swanson with a very strongly worded censure motion. This motion was in response to Swanson's

Upon arriving at the meeting I was surprised to see 4 protesters in the parking lot holding signs in support of Swanson. None of them attended the actual meeting but worked at gaining the attention of drivers arriving at the meeting

Board President David Styer opened the meeting by making a short statement about the purpose of the meeting and presenting some arguments for censuring Jim Swanson.. He continued by asking board member Jim Swanson if he had considered resigning from the board, after which Swanson read a prepared statement, in which Swanson apologized for derailing an important discussion, but emphasizing his desire to continue to protect the safety of children in the district. "My priority will always be to provide students with the safest environment possible". 

This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion. There was a great deal of discussion about the structure of how censure happens in the board. The board seemed uncertain about whether the was actual policy about censure and how they should proceed.  School District Counsel Steven Weld also addressed the board on this issue.

Board member Chris Freeman suggested that censure should be a last-case scenario and that this proceeding should attempt to mediate rather than censure. 

A difficult discussion ensued, after which a motion was presented by counsel, which was prepared last night at the request of Board President David Styer and board member Tanya Husby. Several board members appeared to be shocked that a motion was prepared ahead of time, that it was first presented at the meeting rather than ahead of time, and that it was as strict as it is, including barring member Swanson from being on school property except for board meetings and official board business. Member Freeman strongly objected to wording in the motion that said that the board as a whole had asked Swanson to resign, when in fact it had only been the board president. Many other objections were raised to the wording of the censure motion, particularly involving the issue of possibly calling the police if Swanson does not follow the terms laid out in

Points were made by member Tricia Thompson that the board in general has "terrible passive-agressiveness" and that although she did not think Swanson's behavior was okay, but that the board is sending a message that "how people get along is terrible" and reflects a hostile environment. Board member Freeman agreed that the board has a passive-aggressive board culture that contributes to this behavior.

Member Charlie Schneider expressed his upset that the meeting containing the outburst had gone viral and that children had been exposed to it, saying "There were families watching that. They watched that with their kids. That's disgusting to me." 

Member Freeman expressed his upset that the censure document was forged before the meeting took place, and was a surprise to board members, calling it "premeditated", and raising an objection to the fact that it stated that the entire board asked from Swanson's resignation, whereas it was only the president who did so.

Amy Riddle-Swanson suggested that in view of the emails received by board members from the community that if the censure motion would be passed that there would be an "explosion" in the community.

Member Thompson expressed her concern that this is another example of the board presenting itself in a manner that looks bad to the community. "It makes me seriously question whether my kids should be going to this school. It breaks my heart. I cannot believe that people would put this much time and effort into something so heinous".  Member Husby said she was "floored" that some of the board thought Swanson's behavior was okay.

Several board members objected to the fact that the censure motion demanded that a disorderly conduct complaint be filed with the Menomonie Police Department.

A few attempts were made at discussing making changes to the censure motion, but in the end the vote was taken on the document as originally drafted.

After a prolonged discussion president Styer called for a vote. The board voted 5-4 to pass the censure motion. 

In Favor:

  • Burstad
  • Moses
  • Styer
  • Husby
  • Schneider

Against:

  • Jim Swanson
  • Amy Riddle-Swanson
  • Chris Freeman
  • Tricia Thompson

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