A conclusion should be reached on the extent of misconduct within school administration.
THE PAINFUL EPISODE in the School District of Beloit that was the administration of Superintendent Stanley Munro has come to an unsatisfying end.
Because Munro resigned in the wake of multiple allegations of bad behavior toward subordinates the school board has decided to short-circuit any further investigations into the matter. Therefore, no conclusions will be reached not only regarding the full extent of Munro’s alleged transgressions but also whether any others may have behaved inappropriately.
The situation is further complicated by the apparent fact his resignation did not put a stop to Munro’s antics. The district, through its lawyers, sent Munro a cease and desist letter threatening action against him because he was allegedly continuing to bother staffers.
LOOK, WE GET IT. The Munro mess is a serious stumble for a district that hardly needed more problems.
Readers will recall the chaos leading up to Munro’s hiring. It included board infighting that led to three members abruptly quitting, an interim administration meltdown, a bumpy search for a new superintendent and more. When Munro was hired he was touted as a big hiring victory, complete with an inflated salary when compared to previous superintendents.
Clearly, the celebration was premature.
There may be legitimate concerns that finding quality superintendent candidates will be compromised by this history. In the age of Google nothing is secret anymore.
We understand the urge to sweep it all aside and get on with things. We just don’t agree that saying “never mind” with allegations involving Munro, and possibly others, is the right course.
HERE’S WHY. Regarding investigations that look deeply at all allegations and the parties concerned, and reach actual conclusions, declining to do so can send the wrong message within an organization. It could lead to distrust of administrative hold-overs, who could be viewed as part of the problem within the rank and file.
Moreover, there’s the consideration of where Stanley Munro might land next. Not completing investigations and reaching conclusions creates an element of uncertainty. Should another district considering Munro believe what turns up on Google, or perhaps look at it differently because there are no conclusions? Likewise, Munro may consider himself innocent, and if he is the lack of investigatory conclusions to answer questions may be unfair to him.
THERE IS ANOTHER matter we see as highly important to resolve.
Regular readers know this newspaper is an uncompromising advocate for the Wisconsin Public Records Law. Without the transparency required by that law citizens easily could be kept in the dark by government officials, on matters large and small.
It was alleged Munro willfully and deliberately violated the records law. Complainants said he routinely refused to turn over his own records, ordered others to violate the law and generally was untruthful. It also was alleged records were destroyed at his insistence.
We can’t say if any of that is true or not, because the investigation was halted without reaching conclusions.
We will say this: Honest disagreements can occur over records, when a requester believes a document is disclosable and a government custodian believes it is not. That’s a civil matter and can be adjudicated.
Willful and deliberate hiding of records, let alone destruction of records, is something else entirely, and conceivably could rise to the level of criminal misconduct in public office.
IT IS NOT the school board’s role to prove or disprove such matters. Rather, it is the school board’s obligation to turn over such allegations to Beloit Police and the Rock County District Attorney’s Office, the agencies charged with looking into serious accusations.
Law enforcement then can decide to investigate or not, and determine the proper course under the law.
To us, potential violations of the public trust go the heart of citizens’ ability to have faith in the institutions they pay for and rely upon. The allegations lodged against Munro by high-ranking administrators in a position to know rise to the level where citizens deserve a determination about whether it is true or not true. We urge the police and district attorney to look into it.