District 96 school board President Mary Ellen Meindl says that the board has completed its investigation regarding allegations made by Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi about a former teacher who has since resigned.
The board’s investigation focused on alleged violations of district policies, and the inescapable conclusion of those findings – a separation agreement with the former employee which erases mention of those allegations, apparently provides a letter of reference and promised to pay the former employee’s salary and her attorney’s fees – is that they found the allegations less than believable.
School board members, meanwhile, have actively avoided investigation of other claims made about the former teacher and others. Their reason for doing so, they say, is because the district’s law firm has told them they are breaking the law by informing themselves of those accusations.
They also appear to be claiming that the two sets of allegations have nothing to do with one another. That is a remarkable feat.
In one instance, the district reversed its initial decision to fire a teacher for violating district policies, and then did a complete 180-degree pivot, expunging mention of the incident from the former teacher’s personnel file and then paying the teacher to walk away in exchange for a promise not to sue.
But those events apparently are not being allowed to inform the board of further accusations against the same former teacher and reported by the same key district administrator – accusations determined to be unfounded by not one, but five separate police and social service agencies.
At the same time, a family accused of wrongdoing in a 2011 police report has filed a grievance with the school board, demanding it investigate whether they had been retaliated against by Lieggi for previous complaints they made about the principal’s response to their advocacy on behalf of their children.
That investigation isn’t complete, but the attorney assigned to investigate the grievance has also been consistent in trying to clamp down on the dissemination of information about the case, particularly the 2011 Riverside police report.
It’ll be interesting to see the results of the grievance report the attorney files with the school board.
The school board, however, needs to get a little more curious about this unusual and disturbing series of events and accusations. School boards have attorneys to help them navigate tricky legal waters, to be sure. But school boards need to make sure that they are first and foremost representing the interests and are setting policy for the community they serve – not the district’s law firm and not the district’s administration.
School district officials may consider the book closed on this matter, but it most certainly is not.