Former Menomonie school board president Dan Paulson said Monday he resigned from the position in February to “minimize distractions.”
It is the first time Paulson has given a statement about his February resignation as president. He remains on the school board as a member.
“A while back, concerns were raised regarding my involvement with some written communications on social media. ... I reject or condemn any abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, disability or age,” Paulson said in a statement he read at a Monday school board meeting. “ ... I regret that some may have interpreted my actions, statements or refusal to respond to misguided allegations in any way supports any hate speech on social media.”
Paulson also said his resignation was “not in response to any culpability other than what I have already acknowledged.”
Amy Riddle-Swanson was voted president after Paulson’s resignation. Paulson was elected to the board in April 2017 and voted president in April 2018; his term expires in spring 2020.
Paulson has clashed with other board members and a community member at meetings in recent months.
Glenda Jones of Menomonie criticized Paulson at a Feb. 11 board meeting, asking him to make a public statement condemning a social media interaction from a person connected to Paulson on Facebook.
David Styer, Penny Burstad and Heather Klanderman in February criticized Paulson’s communication with local organizations, including Paulson’s involvement with a local group, Menomonie Cares, that opposed board’s decision to fund the second phase of a Menomonie High School sports complex.
Burstad asked the board to include an agenda item at the November meeting that would let the board consider electing new leadership, but the board did not take action on the proposal.
Statement discussed, not released Monday
The board was slated to enter closed session mid-meeting to discuss “alleged charges against a board member which if discussed in public would adversely impact reputation,” according to the agenda.
However, the board did not enter closed session at that point. Instead, after a contentious discussion, the board voted 5-4 against releasing an official statement.
Burstad, Tanya Husby, Klanderman, Paulson and John Sobota voted no to releasing the board’s statement. Board president Amy Riddle-Swanson, Styer, Jim Swanson and Tricia Thompson voted yes.
It is unclear what the statement contains. In a phone call Tuesday, Paulson declined to comment on the contents of the statement.
“Quite frankly, it came up at the very last minute, and to be honest, I really didn’t get a chance to read it and study it,” Paulson said Tuesday. “I just didn’t think it was wise to issue that statement without everybody having a chance to review it and consider it.”
In a phone call Tuesday, Burstad also declined to comment on the statement because the board has only discussed the matter in closed session, she said.
Burstad and Husby said Monday they voted against releasing the statement because they disagreed with its contents.
“There was just some verbiage in there I wasn’t comfortable with at this point … quite honestly, I didn’t think it was going to resolve the issues at hand,” Burstad said Tuesday.
Styer said Monday that he believed the community is wondering what happened, and the board should give the public more information: “I don’t think that even with what explanations have been given so far tonight, I don’t think we’re there yet. I think somehow we have to get more information out about what’s going on.”
Two board members, Klanderman and Burstad, Monday called the board’s recent discussions involving board members “dysfunctional.”
“I have said in the past that … when we don’t have strong leadership, it’s a dysfunction to the students, the students suffer when the politics become a priority,” Klanderman said. “I feel like (district administrator) Joe (Zydowsky) is guiding us more as a board than current leadership.”
Paulson Monday called for the board to create a code of conduct that “clearly specifies what is expected from all its members and from the leadership.”
Klanderman also called for the board to create a policy on social media conduct.