BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater’s contract approval was tabled by the Fort Madison Community School District Board of Directors at Wednesday’s June board meeting.
The school board held a closed session evaluation of Slater’s performance for an hour prior to the regular board meeting. The board then reconvened the closed session after a 3-hour regular board meeting.
Slater is at the front of some controversy surrounding comments made public by Fort Madison Head Basketball coach Ryan Wilson this week. Wilson told Pen City Current Monday that Slater demanded playing time for her son or he would be fired.
Slater also called into question the philosophy of shared athletic programs. She said the “heavy presence” of Holy Trinity Catholic student-athletes playing for the Bloodhound baseball team was taking playing time from Fort Madison athletes. Her son also plays on the baseball team.
According to Iowa Code, Slater had to request the meeting be closed, which is common in public employee evaluations.
The Iowa code that governs the closed sessions is 21.5 (1)(i) which reads:
“To evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance, or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation and that individual requests a closed session.”
Before going back into the closed session, Board President Dr. Tim Wondra said the board has a lot of information to go through.
“We’re just scratching the surface and trying to figure out where we’re going to go and how this is going to progress,” Wondra said “As you can see tonight, we brought down the district’s attorney to guide us through this process.”
The board received a letter via email on Sunday from an email address that appears to be a Slater family email account, but was unsigned. The email came from an ‘S.S.’ Her husband’s name is Scott Slater.
The letter was in response to a Pen City Current editorial questioning Dr. Slater’s opinion of the shared programs with area schools. The editorial also pointed to behavior of her husband caught on video Saturday at a basketball camp in Quincy, where Mr. Slater was seen confronting Wilson and calling him “vindictive”. The rest of the video is slightly audible.
The letter indicated that Dr. Slater would not be extending her contract, but Wondra said the validity of the letter is up in the air.
“We haven’t gotten that far yet. At this point we don’t even know who for sure wrote it,” he said.
He said the incident is a setback from the positive gains the district has been making and adds strain to the district’s relationship with the community.
“We work very, very hard to build that relationship. It’s unfortunate that for every 20 positive things we do, one negative thing outweighs that 20 times and overshadows all the positive stuff that happens and… it goes on.” he said.
Wondra said he didn’t know when the contract would be back in front of the board. He said he didn’t think everything would get worked out at the Wednesday night continuation of the closed session.
“I have no idea. It depends on how these next closed sessions go and how far tonight goes. I have no idea when another one would be scheduled yet.”
Slater started with the district just prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year and will be entering the fourth year of what Wondra said were two-year rolling contracts, which are standard for most superintendents.