Mount Vernon principal's resignation isn't the end of the story

Jennifer Hemmingsen
Published: June 22 2011 | 7:56 am - Updated: 2 April 2014 | 7:39 pm in
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Washington Elementary School principal Terry Eisenbarth’s resignation shouldn’t be the end of investigations into claims that he bullied students and staff.

For his sake and that of his current — and any future — students, school investigators and police need to get to the bottom of those allegations.

Iowa law allows the Mount Vernon school district to simply close the book on any investigation into Eisenbarth’s behavior now that the school board has his resignation in hand.

But if it’s true that Eisenbarth showed a pattern of misconduct, professional licensers should have the chance to review the facts and determine whether or not any sanctions are in order.

If allegations are unfounded, Eisenbarth deserves to have his name cleared — not to have to leave Mount Vernon under a cloud of suspicion.

Leaving the question unanswered shouldn’t be an option.

Mount Vernon School Board members had

barely convened a closed session last Friday to discuss Eisenbarth’s employment when they received the elementary school principal’s letter of resignation.

And while school board members didn’t explicitly say they considered the resignation the last word on allegations of harassment, bullying and safety issues that teachers say have gone unaddressed all year, their position was clear:

“We believe it is time to move forward,” Board President Tom Wieseler told dozens of concerned parents and community members who turned

out for the special meeting.

“Understand that there is no decision that the board can make that will satisfy everyone. There are no winners in this discussion.”

But resolving the allegations isn’t about winners and losers — it’s about discovering the truth and holding Eisenbarth accountable if he did show a pattern of unprofessional behavior.

In one way, Wieseler was right: There are no winners if school boards, so relieved to be rid of a problematic educator,

use resignations as excuses to drop misconduct

investigations like a student drops textbooks in June.

Even if their intent isn’t to shuffle incompetent or unethical educators along to other school districts, boards should know that’s what they’re making possible when they sweep dirt under the rug.

How many times do we have to learn this lesson: Until Iowa law changes to require districts to report serious allegations of misconduct to state licensers, there always will be school boards happy to close their eyes to their role in the problem.

Comments: (319) 339-3154; jennifer.hemmingsen@sourcemedia.net

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