MONROE — Monroe Public Schools leaders may seek to sever ties with embattled Superintendent Justin Blasko.
The district board said it had begun a formal search for another acting superintendent as it worked on ‘next steps with Dr. Blasko’, after a scathing investigation revealed that he intimidated and belittled district employees.
“Lawyers representing both Dr. Blasko and the Monroe School District are currently in communication,” board chair Jennifer Bumpus wrote in a June 2 letter to the community.
“As this is a very complex legal and personal matter, counsel are prohibited from sharing additional information; However, I can tell you that we take this very seriously and we remain true to our commitment to respect the policy and the law during this process.
Bumpus, in an email with The Daily Herald, declined to say whether she expected Blasko to ever return to the role. He has been on paid administrative leave since December, when the board hired the Seabold Group to investigate allegations of inappropriate language, bullying and sexist outbursts by the superintendent.
“As we work through this process, board members have a responsibility to consider all of the facts and not to presuppose any particular outcome,” Bumpus said in an email. “In making decisions about an employee, school board members must be fair and objective and must follow due process.”
Investigators interviewed 50 people and reviewed numerous emails, text messages and other records. Some described the superintendent as “volatile and unpredictable” and said they felt targeted by Blasko if they confronted him. Several witnesses told the investigator that Blasko – the district’s former executive director of human resources – referred to some women as sexist swear words or as “mean”.
District policy states that employees will “treat each other and students with dignity and respect” and “refrain from using abusive language.” Although the investigator did not explicitly write that Blasko violated this policy, the allegations leave little doubt.
Blasko denied many of the statements attributed to him, but the investigator concluded he was unavailable. Blasko conceded calling a former manager a sexist swear word.
In a written response to the report, Blasko apologized “to those who have been hurt by my actions.” He said he did not recall many of the specific alleged incidents, but “I do not question the integrity of those who contributed to the report, or the validity of their personal experiences or perceptions”.
Blasko is under contract until July 2025. If the board terminates the contract, he would be entitled to a one-year severance package. His annual salary is nearly $250,000 and he is in line for a July 1 cost of living increase.
Under the contract, he can appeal, a process that could take several months to resolve.
Meanwhile, the trustees are looking for a new acting superintendent. Kim Whitworth, who has assumed the leadership role since December, will resume her duties as district director of studies on July 1.
“We know she can’t wait to return to the role she loves,” Bumpus wrote.
The board hopes to recruit someone as close to July 1 as possible, according to a district spokesperson. How long they would be in this role remains to be determined.
Bumpus has made it clear that admins want an experienced admin who can set a different tone.
“Based on what we’ve heard from our community over the past few months, our goal is to find an experienced leader who is skilled in building a positive culture and authentic community engagement,” he said. she writes in the letter to the community.
On Friday, one of Blasko’s harshest critics conceded the board couldn’t rush to judgment.
“We understand that the board must follow procedure and the law,” Melanie Ryan of the Monroe Equity Council said in an email. “We hope that the new information that they will hire an acting superintendent indicates that they will fire him.
“We also understand the community’s frustration with the process,” she continued, “and the continued desire and need to express the expectation of the board, which has always supported Blasko, that he be fired.”
Blasko was promoted to the district’s top job in February 2020 and given a three-year contract. Last summer, the board of directors approved another three-year contract until June 30, 2024, to replace his initial contract. Then, on November 22, the outgoing board amended the contract to extend it until June 30, 2025.