Redding School District Pres Resigns, Parents Demand Ouster

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About 100 people filled the Cypress Elementary School gym for Tuesday night’s Redding School District board meeting.

The Redding School District board president – whose wife faces theft and embezzlement charges related to a parent club and school within the district – resigned Tuesday, hours before parents called for his removal during a well-attended board meeting.

Rein Stolz was not present at the evening meeting at Cypress Elementary School. His resignation was not publicly announced, but board member Scott Gordon confirmed it to A News Café after the meeting. Gordon did not explain why the board hadn’t announced Stolz’s resignation.

Heather Waldrop, vice president of the Cypress Parent Club and one of the speakers who asked for Stolz’s resignation, said Tuesday night she was glad to hear the news, although “we would have liked to have heard it at the meeting.”

Stolz’s wife, Wanell, 51, pleaded not guilty Monday in Shasta County Superior Court to charges that she embezzled and stole cash and property worth about $13,500 from Sycamore Elementary School and its parent club from 2004 to 2009.

Wanell Stolz was employed as the Sycamore librarian and was treasurer of the school’s parent club at the time. Parents found out after her Aug. 4 arrest by Redding police that she had been transferred to the library at Cypress, a move that surprised and upset them. She was also working as an information specialist at Juniper Elementary, the Record Searchlight reported.

Wanell Stolz began an unpaid leave of absence on Thursday, effective through June 30, 2011, district officials said.

According to a report filed in Shasta County Superior Court, Redding police began looking into allegations of misuse of Sycamore parent club funds by Wanell Stolz in June of 2009.

“We believe over a four- to five-year period she systematically over-reimbursed herself and paid herself money out of an account she was not intended to,” Shasta County Deputy District Attorney Erin Dervin told A News Café on Aug. 4.

Prior to Tuesday night’s public forum, board member Gordon sought to clarify that the board has no control over the finances of parent clubs. “Neither the board of trustees nor the district administrators have any rights to examine the finances or accounting records of parent clubs,” he told the crowd of about 100.

“As of this time, the district has no information from anyone that she (Wanell Stolz) is in unlawful possession of any district property. The district has no information that any board member has been involved in any impropriety” related to the parent club, he said.

Speaker Julie Buick, a Sycamore Elementary teacher and former Pacheco School board member, acknowledged that although the board has no direct involvement with parent club finances, “because this person (Wanell Stolz) is also employed by the district, I think it changes things,” she said. “The appearance of covering it up or not doing something proactive appears bad. It also emphasizes the idea of nepotism. I feel it is a conflict of interest right off the bat.”

Buick urged the board to ask for Rein Stolz’s resignation. “It would send a message to the public that you are concerned. It would tell the staff, parents and taxpayers that you are on top of it,” she said.

Her request echoed one from Waldrop, who also asked that former Cypress librarian Sheri McMullin be brought back to the school, and that an internal investigation be launched to examine how the district handled the accusations against Wanell Stolz.

“We feel that the involvement of Mr. Stolz in this situation is an absolute conflict of interest that has directly affected the handling of this situation,” Waldrop said.

McMullin, who is now the librarian at Manzanita Elementary School, attended Tuesday’s meeting but declined to comment.

Bonnie Ammon, parent of five children and a member of the Juniper School Booster Club, requested that the board create a district policy that anyone with a pending felony case immediately be placed on administrative leave.

She cited the Redding School District motto of “be safe, be respectful and be responsible,” asking that board members model those terms for the children in the district by implementing such a policy.

District Superintendent Diane Kempley declined to comment after the meeting.

Candace L. Brown is a freelance journalist in Redding. Contact her at candace@snowcrest.net

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.

Candace L. Brown
Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight. She lives in Redding and can be reached at candace.freelance@gmail.com.
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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Howard Lucas says:

    What is the other side of this story? There is a lot of heat and hate going on… Do you have a take on the effect on children in this situation? The way the investigation is handled? Who is stirring up the venonm? It would seem that the press has some responsibility to look into these matters.

  2. Avatar pam says:

    just a couple of adults who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or so it seems. and the school board is doing their usual " i don't know " and "its not our problem". time to put down your toys and act like adults and be responsible.

  3. Avatar Tammy Gearhart says:

    I propose the school board take the time to look at the police report and notice that school and district property is listed as being recovered. They also can't take the cop out that they don't get involved in parent club maters because I know for a fact of at least one incident where they did!

  4. Avatar MANDI BALMA-KESTEL says:

    THIS IS SAD, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS PERSON MAKES $$$$ WISE FOR HER JOB. I LIVE IN LAS VEGAS, NEVADA AND THIS HAPPENS AT LEAST WEEKLY. NOT JUST IN THE SCHOOLS. ALL TYPES OF WORK!!!

  5. Avatar stasia says:

    Here's what bothers me about this story. The school district transfers financial responsibility to parents, then has no control or say about the situation. Imagine this scenerio:
    School: Hey parents, we can't afford books for the library, so if you want them, you have to raise money and buy them.
    The parents (and typically it's about 5 percent of the school's parents) work like crazy with spaghetti feeds, book sales, etc. to raise money for expenses that traditionally have been the district's responsibility. Now there's a problem… embezzlement, or strife among the group. Does the district help? No, it has washed its hands of the problem.
    District administrators must be delighted. All the work done for you, and none of the grief.

  6. Avatar Pam Baugh says:

    Where is the 'rest of the story' as Paul Harvey used to say…

  7. Avatar Todd Gandy says:

    For people who want the rest of the story, follow the criminal investigation.

    The parent club at Cypress was concerned not about Mrs. Stolz being innocent or guilty, the concern was how this case was handled by the board.

    The board says that they have no control over parent club funds, that might be an acceptable excuse at a time when there were just rumours of embezzlement of some parent club funds, but we're talking about an employee of the school who has been arrested for not only embezzlement but stealing school property.

    The board decided the appropriate response was to transfer Mrs. Stolz away from the school where parents were complaining to a school that historically has had less parent involvement.

    This sweeping under the rug maneuver placed Mrs. Stolz in a new position of financial responsibility (our schools fall book fair fundraiser had to be cancelled as a result) and Cypress lost our wonderful Librarian Mrs. McMullen.

    Whatever their reasoning was, the board should have realized their actions would appear to be a result of nepotism.

    How about some transparency from the board to help clear this matter up?

    Oh wait, there was that announcement at the meeting prior to public comment that parent club is not the board's responsibility (which is still not the issue here!) and then I have to find out that the board president (Mr. Stolz) resigned from the internet.

    So much for the chance to restore some confidence. Maybe next meeting?

  8. Avatar Janice Powell says:

    So why haven't we seen any interviews or questions answered by the existing school board members ? Many of these board members are involved in city politics and programs…if they haven't acted on this recent fiasco, will they honestly report to the public on other issues?
    They are: Peggy O'Lea – Vice President (2009) Denise Yergenson – Clerk (2011) Scott Gordon – Member (2011) Don Wilkins – Member (2009)

    Here are the published values of these board members and it seems that they aren't paying attention to any of them !
    Core Values for the Redding School District Board:
    1. Student Success: Support the success of all students with quality educational programs.
    2. Shared Responsibility: Establish a sense of shared responsibility among all District stakeholders to attack issues in a manner consistent with these core values, and which balances the needs of students, employees and operational demands. Clearly define and pursue common visions that are founded in common sense. Ensure shared accountability for and ownership of agreements made.
    3. Mutual Respect: Promote positive professional relationships. Honor units and employees consistent with our mission to attract and retain quality employees to serve our students. Listen to and consider ideas based on their merit in a fair and honest process.
    4. Fiscal Responsibility: Protect and preserve the fiscal health of the District, especially in light of the uncertainty of the state budget. Engage in clear, honest and open conversations that confront the realities of state and local economies. Promote cooperation and problem-solving to create long term solutions and maintain the public’s trust.
    5. Long Term Stability: Achieve a multi-year agreement that promotes labor peace so that energy can be focused on providing quality education to students, rather than being diverted by divisiveness.

    If my children were enrolled in this district, I'd be asking for some answers !

  9. Avatar pmarshall says:

    We, no matter what, when one is in charge of finances of any kind, one absolutely does not write checks payable to oneself! That is absolutely a no-no! I hope that poor woman realizes what she may have done wrong.

  10. Avatar A Brady says:

    I hope the time has come for the School Boards of the Northstate to take "whistle-blowers" seriously and not just send them on their way like they have in the past.