Superintendent accused of ‘dereliction of duty’

Plainwell Superintendent Sue Wakefield. (May 19, 2014)

PLAINWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — In a scathing two-page memorandum, the Plainwell Community Schools board accused Superintendent Sue Wakefield of “dereliction of duty” in her handling of a recent incident in which a student was found to have brought a fake weapon to Gilkey Elementary School.

The board claims that after the March incident, “protocol… was not followed at the building level to the superintendent” because police were not notified until a member of the community called to report the child had brought the fake gun to school.

“This was a dereliction of duty,” board President Amy Blades said during a Monday night meeting, reading from a memo the school board wrote to Wakefield.

The letter goes on to criticize the superintendent’s failure to follow board instructions when she allegedly didn’t invite police to the expulsion hearing after the weapon incident.

The letter claims that the board requested repeatedly that Wakefield make sure an officer be at any expulsion hearing regarding a weapon. The request was even made in writing in an April 2011 memo, the board claims.

Also at issue was the letter sent from the school district to parents after the March incident.

“The initial message sent to parents of the classroom was to the effect that the message was being sent for rumor control,” Blades said, reading from the memo. “This message does not convey the professionalism and appropriate tone coming from a school district, but rather took on a defensive tone.”

After the weapon incident, the superintendent allegedly reported information to the board that turned out to be false.

“Inconsistencies in the superintendent’s statements to the board at the Board of Education meeting on May 8th, 2014 also cause concern. These inconsistencies included that a teacher was disciplined when she was not, whether a police report was made and whether the police were invited to be present at the board meeting,” the memo read in part. “These concerns create an issue of credibility and reflect on the trust relationship between the board and the superintendent.”

Wakefield was suspended without pay for one day as a result.

“The superintendent failed to adequately recognize the board’s level of concern regarding the effectiveness of communication with the board, the police and the community,” the memo said.

Wakefield addressed the board’s concerns briefly after the meeting, emphasizing that students were never in put in any danger.

She said the “inconsistencies” in the information she provided to the board were the result of “a miscommunication.”

Wakefield said she looks forward to moving past the incident.

“There’s lessons to be learned here,” Wakefield said. “I look forward to continuing to work here at Plainwell schools with the board and we go forward from here.”

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