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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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