Silence Unwise ‘In Hindsight,’ Trustee Says; Applicants Sought

redding-school-district-graphic

The Redding School District board’s decision not to publicly announce the resignation of its president at a contentious meeting last week was “an agenda mishap,” the acting president said Monday.

“In hindsight, we should have mentioned it in the beginning,” board member Denise Yergenson said. “I think this is all untreaded water for us; it’s new and different. We didn’t know how to bring it up.”

Yergenson and fellow board members Scott Gordon and Peggy O’Lea learned hours before last week’s meeting that longtime colleague Rein Stolz had submitted his resignation to the district that day, she said.

Stolz’s resignation came amidst controversy concerning his wife, Wanell, 51, who was arrested Aug. 4 on suspicion of embezzling and stealing cash and property from the Sycamore Elementary parent club and school. Wanell Stolz, who was treasurer of the club and librarian at the school from 2004 to 2009, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

wanell-stolz

After her arrest, Wanell Stolz remained an employee of the district and was beginning work as the Cypress Elementary School librarian when she went on an unpaid leave of absence starting Aug. 12.

At last week’s board meeting, angry parents called for an investigation into the district’s handling of the matter and – unaware of the trustee’s recent action — asked for Rein Stolz’s resignation, calling it a conflict of interest that he remain on the board.

Yergenson said Monday that the board has not been told by the Redding Police Department that any district property was involved in the case pending against Wanell Stolz. The board and district do not have jurisdiction over parent club finances.

“If we hear there’s anything that directly involves the district, we’ll investigate,” she said.

Yergenson said Monday that Rein Stolz had served on the board for more than a decade. “He was an excellent board member,” she said.

Redding resident Frank Covich has known Rein Stolz for more than 15 years. He spoke highly of Stolz’s leadership and devotion to “the children of Redding,” including Covich’s son, Skylar, who is blind. Skylar graduated as the top student at St. Mary’s College last year, and his father gives the Redding School District board much credit for his success.

“I know of his (Rein’s) work with the school board, as they provided decisions to help my son when adaptive equipment or services to help teachers or my son were requested,” Covich said via e-mail. “Rein was always approachable, and he was fair and reasonable. I believe that he has impeccable character and should be honored, not slandered.”

New board members

The Redding School District is accepting applications until 4 p.m. Friday for the position vacated by Stolz. On Monday evening, the board voted to appoint Heather Kelnhofer, a project supervisor for the Smart Business Resource Center in Redding, to fill former trustee Don Wilkin’s seat. Wilkins resigned earlier this summer.

Kelnhofer’s first action was to second a motion to name Gordon as board clerk.

Redding dentist Todd Gandy, whose oldest daughter goes to Cypress, attended Monday’s meeting, as well as last week’s. Gandy said the recent controversy piqued his interest in what the school board does, and he is applying for the open position.

todd_gandyth.jpg

“I think the appearance of how it (the Stolz issue) was handled was suspect. It could have been handled better,” he said. “Some information could have been available. I think unfortunately that made the situation more explosive than it needed to be.

“That’s what got me interested” in running, he said. He noted that his children will be in the Redding School District for many years. “Rather than be someone that complains, I thought I’d try to be more constructive. It’s another good way to get involved.”

Addressing other requests

In addition to requests for Rein Stolz’s resignation and an internal investigation into the district’s handling of criminal allegations against a staff member, speakers last Tuesday also asked the board for the following:

  • Reinstatement of Cypress School librarian Sheri McMullin, who is working at Manzanita Elementary this fall; and
  • Creation of a district policy that anyone with a pending felony case immediately be placed on administrative leave.

Yergenson said she checked with the district’s attorney but was told it would be illegal – a potential violation of First Amendment rights — to create a blanket policy requiring immediate leave for any employee with a pending criminal investigation.

And she noted that personnel decisions about the library jobs had been made “prior to this coming up.”

“The board has nothing to do with this,” Yergenson said. “We do vote on reduction of staff, but we don’t have anything to do with who gets to go where. That’s driven by union contracts.”

The public sometimes misperceives the board’s power, Yergenson said. “We adopt policy – lots of it driven by the California system – and hire the superintendent and let her do her job,” she said.

Candace L. Brown has been a magazine and newspaper journalist since 1992. She lives in Redding and can be reached at candace@snowcrest.net.

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.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar shelly shively says:

    Great reporting, Candace! I can't think of a better school board member than Todd Gandy.

  2. Avatar Tammy Gearhart says:

    So by denying that the stolen items were district property (which they were ) the district is somehow allowed to wash their hands of responsibility for their employee stealing. Their actions of lack of them send the message that it is OK with them for district employees to steal property from the schools as long as it was bought with Parent club money. I am appalled! That is disrespectful to all the parents that work hard to buy our schools the extras they need. It is disrespectful the staff who stuck their necks out to say we have a big problem here. Bottom line is the items stolen belonged to the school….a school employee took them….and the school the children and the parents deserve to protected from this employee. The district leadership closed their eyes and protected Mrs Stolz all along. They deflected the truth by also calling all this rumors. When the board was made aware of the charges and they to referred to them as rumors without questioning any school employees, we lost trust in them too. The board are in charge of our superintendent and she has not acted responsibly or ethically. If Dr. Kempley and/or Rosanne Adams are their only source of information on this then they are painfully ill-informed.

  3. Avatar Janice Powell says:

    The public sometimes misperceives the board’s power, Yergenson said. “We adopt policy – lots of it driven by the California system – and hire the superintendent and let her do her job,” she said.

    Maybe the Redding School District Board should evaluate the Superintendent after they hire him/her. It's hard to believe that the board doesn't have any say over how the Superintendent carries out duties as assigned.

    I agree with Shelly, Todd Gandy will be a great addition to the school board.
    “Rather than be someone that complains, I thought I’d try to be more constructive. It’s another good way to get involved.” Don't we all wish that there were more people with his attitude in our community ?