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Spirit Lake Principal ousted, students protest – Board votes 3-2 to dismiss administrator

By Staff | Feb 7, 2008

SPIRIT LAKE — The morning after Spirit Lake High School Principal Jedd Sherman was dismissed from his position by a 3-2 vote of the school board, students braved icy winds and single-digit temperatures to protest his ouster on campus and along the Highway 9 corridor.

On Tuesday, the Spirit Lake School Board voted to approve Superintendent Doug Latham’s recommendation to accept Sherman’s resignation and to place him on administrative leave immediately. The leave is to be in effect until June 30, when the resignation — which Sherman says was made under duress — becomes effective.

School board members Cliff Garvey, Ann Goerss and president Beth Will voted in favor of the motion, with members Todd Hummel and Scott Wicks casting nay votes.

The action followed more than an hour of comments from an overflowing crowd of teachers, students and community members that expressed support for Sherman.

Students picketing outside on Wednesday said they were angered and confused by the school board’s decision to dismiss Sherman. Many said the board has authorized spending in recent years that now has the district looking at cutting more than a million dollars out of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and that Sherman had expressed cuts be made first at the administrative level.

Junior Johnny McCarthy, wearing a T-shirt with “Sherman rocks” scripted on the front, said most students think the principal was forced to resign over budgetary issues. “Mr. Sherman has been a great principal, and he’s brought good things to the school system,” McCarthy said. “We don’t really know why he’s gone, but we assume it’s because of disagreement between him and officials over budget issues.”

School board president Will disagreed. “The letter of resignation from Mr. Sherman was not due to budget areas and financial difficulties,” Will said. “This issue began last spring in regard to Mr. Sherman and his probationary contract, and has nothing to do with the recent financial or budget status of the district.” Will was referring to an incident last year when then Superintendent Tim Grieves sought Sherman’s resignation over a personnel issue. A large show of public support for Sherman resulted in him keeping his job under probationary status.

Superintendent Latham said he and other school officials spoke to the student body at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. “We encouraged them to focus on the strong points of Spirit Lake High School,” Latham said. “We’ve got many great things going on right now in our academic and extracurricular arenas, and we need to focus on our future. We encouraged the kids to put this situation behind them and move forward.

Latham said by mid-morning most students had returned to classes, although small groups were gathered in hallways and in the cafeteria, many of them saying they would skip classes in protest of Sherman’s dismissal. A group of a dozen students remained outside along Highway 9 hoisting placards supporting Sherman. “
We gave all the students a first period bye,” Sherman said. “Those not in class after that are being counted absent.”

Latham said John Walz, dean of students, will serve as interim principal.