St. Joseph School District Board of Education member Chris Danford on Thursday submitted her resignation from the board.
The letter to Superintendent Dr. Robert Newhart and the chairman of the school board was simple: “This letter is to inform you of my resignation from the SJSD school board effective immediately.”
In a news release, Danford included a long list of problems in the district, ranging from what she called “disappointing financial progress” to plummeting student achievement and rising numbers of students who can’t read.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Newhart responded Thursday afternoon in an impromptu news conference in his office. Newhart said he was surprised by the resignation, which he called a “curve ball.” He called Danford “a fighter,” and a watchdog. (Click here for more from Dr. Newhart)
The release also included a reference to “community engagement that isn’t.”
“The board discussed community engagement at a work session last Monday. That plan is really tax marketing strategy. Though we must keep moving forward, we will have missed an opportunity to pause and honestly listen to citizens. Listen. It seems we mainly reach out when we want more money,” according to the letter.
Danford says she will not support any tax initiative that includes a lease purchase program for capital improvements. Danford was the board member who first brought to light the administrative stipends that landed the district in hot water for the last couple of years. Her resignation comes almost two years to the day after the report from the State Auditor was released to the public.
Danford says district taxpayers deserve to know what the $100,000 spent investigating retaliation against former CFO Beau Musser “and other district shenanigans.” Danford called for the report to be released.
She said in the resignation letter that her minority position on the board prevents her from changing the important academic and financial issues she highlighted.
The school district administration had not issued a formal reaction statement.
The last time a vacancy occurred on the board was with the resignation of Dr. Dan Colgan, the former superintendent who is currently serving prison time for inflating his retirement income from the district.
We reached out to Danford as well, but she was on her way to the school district offices to deliver her resignation. You can read the entire resignation letter here.
The school board is expected to formally accept Danford’s resignation at its meeting Feb. 27, at which time they will set the wheels in motion for an open application for the seat from members of the public. Dr. Newhart suggested the seat could be filled within about 45 days.