UPDATE: February 13, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Jeff Arnett made an additional statement to TKC about his departure from KSD after being appointed superintendent in 2018:
While the approach of one individual was particularly disappointing, the dynamic among the seven board members was equally surprising. The combination of individual actions and collective discord certainly contributed to my decision. There were several red flags, all of which seemed connected to the board’s lack of cohesiveness.
In a December 5, 2019 interview with TKC, School Board President Darnel Frost said, “I don’t really know Arnett’s personal decisions for changing his mind. I don’t have that information.” On Feb. 10, a board censure document was placed on the KSD website stating Board Member Julie Backer’s “statements were among reasons recounted by the Superintendent as justification for refusing to honor his contract.” Frost and Backer announced a joint statement of resolution Feb. 10.
Frost has not accepted requests for an interview, but provided the following statement:
Our number one priority as members of the Kirkwood School Board of Education is to advocate for our students, teachers, staff, and families.
And, as President of the Board, I feel an even deeper personal commitment to this process and take that responsibility to heart. After numerous attempts and private meetings with Board Member Backer to address policy violations and incidents that compromised the superintendent search. I took a difficult but important step at the February 1 special Board meeting to begin a process to censure a current Board member. This meeting included a discussion with the Board, subsequently placing a Resolution of Censure on the February 10 Board Agenda with all related documentation. I was prepared to go through with the resolution because of the serious nature of the offenses, but the admissions, no denials, and apology, and a commitment to following and enforcing the Board norms, provided a path to bring resolution to the Board. I thought it was best for our school district to accept the acknowledgment and apology to bring unity to our school district in order to focus on the superintendent search. The signed agreement is attached.
Dr. Michele Condon became KSD Superintendent following Arnett’s departure and has announced her retirement following this school year. Condon denied a TKC interview request, writing “I am sorry I am not at liberty to talk about that situation. Thank you.”
There are currently Special Board Meetings scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday. The KSD website has a Notice of Closed Meeting, Closed Record and Vote for both meetings, in which “legal actions involving the district” and “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting employees” will be considered.
Original version, published February 12, 2020 at 6:39 p.m:
Dr. Jeff Arnett responded to the KSD School Board dispute in a statement to TKC Feb. 12. Arnett was named KSD superintendent after a months-long search in January 2018 before he terminated his contract in March 2018. His statement read:
I am sorry to hear of the ongoing divisiveness and I can imagine how upsetting this must be to members of the community. What I know of the current dispute is consistent with what I experienced two years ago. Even though my time as incoming superintendent was unexpectedly brief, I met many wonderful staff and stakeholders in Kirkwood who clearly focus on what is best for students. No doubt the board wants to move beyond this contentiousness to find new leadership that maintains the school district’s respect, stability and integrity.
School Board President Darnel Frost moved to censure Julie Backer at a Special Board Meeting Feb. 1. Frost then dropped the censure and announced a joint statement of resolution with Backer and the rest of the board Feb. 10. The issue resurfaced when the St. Louis Post Dispatch published an article featuring documents on KSD’s website from Frost, Superintendent Michelle Condon and former Superintendent Tom Williams.
Frost, Condon and Backer have not responded to requests for comment.
This article will be updated as more information is released.