School board needs to address Superintendent concerns


Spring storms have wreaked havoc on communities up and down the river this year, but we think a different kind of storm has been brewing in Fort Madison – and the first crack of lightning hit earlier this week.

Pen City Current reported on an email that showed Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater is unhappy with the playing time Fort Madison athletes are getting in shared programs with Holy Trinity Catholic, specifically, the baseball program.


Another crack of lightning came on Saturday, when a video surfaced showing Slater’s husband, Scott, confronting Fort Madison High School basketball coach Ryan Wilson at a camp in Quincy, Ill.

Apparently, it’s not the first time Scott has been observed being verbally aggressive at Fort Madison High School events. Dr. Tim Wondra, FMCSD school board president, confirmed last week that Scott was suspended for one game by Slater, for behavior at a baseball game earlier this season that was in violation of team rules.

Scott Slater was also reprimanded by an official for behavior at a basketball game last year between Holy Trinity Catholic and Fort Madison High School played at HTC’s gym.

The sound from Saturday’s video is barely audible, but it’s clear Scott Slater says to Wilson ‘you’re vindictive’. No one will dispute that there are two sides to every story. At the same time, no one will dispute that conduct is unbecoming, at the very least. With the alleged track record, action needs taken.

The school board needs to also take a hard look at Slater’s comments in her email to the board. Slater has a son who plays on the baseball team and hasn’t seen a lot of varsity action. He also played in a bench role on the varsity basketball team, again with limited playing time.

Another rumble came Friday when Pen City Current confirmed the Slaters have applied to open enroll their son at West Burlington for his senior year, so the frustration they are experiencing with Fort Madison sports programs may end this year.

But the mission statement of the Fort Madison School District is “to ensure all students learn the academic and life skills necessary for personal success and responsible living”.

We’re just a little lost on how open enrolling your son doesn’t abandon that mission statement even though, unfortunate as all this is, it may be the best choice for the family. It is the superintendent’s ultimate authority, at the direction of the board, to drive that mission statement. How can one possibly advocate for a district, but send your child into another?

But in Slater’s email she indicates the “heavy presence” of students from Holy Trinity on the baseball team, is taking playing time away from Fort Madison High School players. She also confirmed in a text to Pen City Current that no guidelines exist in the shared agreements, and the email was for “implementation clarification”.

Slater also indicated in the email to the board that she disagrees with the philosophy that consideration shouldn’t be given to where the players go to school. She said she advocates for Fort Madison High School programs and not community programs.

“Our students don’t have the choice to attend a private school…a private school this district continues to programmatically support over and over without return. Our students entrust us to provide opportunities for them,” Slater wrote.

That statement escapes us considering families do have the option of enrolling their students in private schools. That choice is there, as is a choice to open-enroll. And, even more to the point, the families that send their students to HTC certainly pay taxes that help finance the schools. In less financial terms, it’s also a return for the district when students on the tennis, track, or wrestling teams represent FMHS as Bloodhounds at state tournaments and meets.

But because there are no guidelines, then the agreement is simply to allow HTC student athletes to play on FMHS sports teams without parameters. So, at least grammatically, the implementation is solely the board approving the agreement. If there are no guidelines, then there is no other implementation. Playing time, as it should be, is determined by the coach.

There are five HTC students on the team of 30 players. It’s hard to make the case of a “heavy presence”. However there are three of nine regular starters on the team that play from HTC. We have to assume, because we pay a head coach to build a program, the coach knows what’s best for their programs.

But the bigger issue is the meddling in the programs. How are we going to be able to attract, (and maybe with the storm winds blowing), keep good coaches in our program when we experience heavy-handed behavior at the top. It’s not a stretch to assume that maybe we’ve already lost personnel because of this.

Again, there are two sides to every story and everyone knows the pull of wanting the best for our children and making sure they have a fair shake in the world. After all, when you peel all this back, it’s that base emotion that’s in place, and that has to be respected. But we all have to give value to the proper chain of command and making sure that cognizant filter is in place… and remember the power of a cooler head. And letting our children fail is sometimes just as valuable as watching them succeed. (Just a bit tougher as we’d all agree).

Slater is scheduled to have an evaluation on Wednesday, prior to the board’s regular meeting. We can only hope that the questions and issues pointed out here are given proper consideration.

And in a small bit of irony, the Bloodhound baseball team beat one of the best pitchers in the state Saturday night in another come-from-behind win over Burlington Notre Dame. The Hounds are now 8-7 on the year. But that’s kinda – Beside the Point.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5476 Articles
Pen City Current and are products of Market Street Publishing, LLC, a multi-platform media company delivering hyper-local news, sports and advertising information to Fort Madison, IA and surrounding communities.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply