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Jim Swanson delivers profane outburst during Menomonie school board meeting; censure hearing to be held Friday
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Jim Swanson delivers profane outburst during Menomonie school board meeting; censure hearing to be held Friday

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A Menomonie school board member’s aggressive outburst Monday is shocking the community, and the board will meet Friday morning to discuss a censure.

Jim Swanson erupted with an expletive-riddled rebuttal during Monday’s bi-weekly board meeting. Swanson’s outburst came after engaging with district administrator, Joe Zydowsky upon disagreeing on the proposed social distancing within school grounds.

Swanson believed six feet was the minimum required, but Zydowsky said four feet would be required, which ended up being the case in the approved reopening plan.

After a brief back and forth, Swanson’s tone began to indicate hostility and after board president David Styer attempted to calm Swanson, Swanson threw a flurry of profanity at Styer while pounding his desk during a public meeting with livestream and in-person attendance.

“I’m not going to let him distort the facts and lie about what I’m saying,” Swanson said. “He’s deflecting … f*** you. You’re a f****** dictator. It’s bulls***.”

Immediately after the incident, a 15-minute recess was approved to calm the situation.

Styer said the incident does not make the school district look good, which is quite unfortunate as it is trying to implement a reopening plan in a few short weeks.

“I would like to take this opportunity to personally apologize to the SDMA school community for the poor conduct at last night’s board meeting,” Styer said. “This outburst was completely unprofessional, disrespectful and demeaning to the entire board. Not only was it disrespectful to the board and our superintendent, but it portrays our school district and our community in a very poor light. On a night when the focus should have been on our school reopening plan with robust discussion, it ended up being cut short due to this disrespectful behavior. Hopefully our board and the community will take steps to address this issue.”

Zydowsky, who remained quiet during Swanson’s outburst, said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a good amount of stress to everyone in the Menomonie community and hopes discussion can be redirected toward making the schools within the district as safe as can be.

“After serving for nearly 15 years as a superintendent in Wisconsin school districts, I’ve never seen anything similar to what happened during last night’s school board meeting,” Zydowsky said. “It was very unfortunate that the discussion about the SDMA Reopening Plan was cut short by such a vulgar outburst. There is much to consider in developing plans for reopening our school district, and I will continue to work closely with the Dunn County Health Department to make decisions that are aligned with the mission and vision for our school district. COVID-19 is a huge concern for everyone in the school district, as is the overall health, well-being and academic and social development of our children. There are no easy answers for schooling during a pandemic, but I am proud of the collaborative work put into developing the SDMA Reopening Plan, which provides mobility, flexibility and choices for our school district and families.”

A usual livestream on YouTube of the bi-weekly SDMA receives about 100 views, but in just a few days the video of Monday’s meeting have soared past 12,000 views and has caused a good deal of discussion within the community of needing elected representatives to uphold the desired demeanor of the community and instill confidence in the school board.

A special meeting of the school board is to be held at 8 a.m. Friday to decide the board wishes to issue a censure toward Swanson. A censure is a formal, and public, group condemnation of an individual, often a group member, whose actions run counter to the group’s acceptable standards for individual behavior.

Like a reprimand, a censure does not remove a member from their office so they retain their title, stature and power to vote.

When asked for comment on his outburst, Swanson did not respond.

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