Monroe schools on to ‘next steps’ for embattled superintendent

Blistering report in hand, Monroe school leaders are seeking an acting leader to fill in for Justin Blasko.

Justin Blasko

Justin Blasko

MONROE — Leaders of the Monroe public schools may be looking to sever ties with embattled Superintendent Justin Blasko.

The district’s Board of Directors announced it has begun a formal search for another acting superintendent as it works through the “next steps with Dr. Blasko,” after a scathing investigation found he bullied and denigrated district employees.

“Attorneys representing both Dr. Blasko and Monroe School District are currently in communication,” board President Jennifer Bumpus wrote in a June 2 letter to the community.

“As this is a very complex legal and personnel matter, the board is prohibited from sharing additional information; however, I can tell you that we are taking this very seriously and we remain steadfast in our commitment to follow policy and the law during this process.”

Bumpus, in an email with The Daily Herald, declined to say if she expected Blasko to ever resume his duties. He has been on paid administrative leave since December, when the board hired the Seabold Group to investigate allegations of inappropriate language, bullying and sexist outbursts by the superintendent.

“As we are working through this process, board members have a responsibility to review all the facts and not presuppose any particular outcome,” Bumpus said in an email. “In making any decisions concerning an employee, School Board members must be fair and objective and must respect legal due process.”

Investigators interviewed 50 people and reviewed loads of emails, text messages and other records. Some described the superintendent as “volatile and unpredictable” and reported feeling targeted by Blasko if they confronted him. Multiple witnesses told the investigator that Blasko — the district’s former executive director of human resources — referred to certain women with a sexist expletive or as “evil.”

District policy states employees will “treat each other and students with dignity and respect” and “refrain from use of abusive language.” While the investigator didn’t explicitly write that Blasko violated this policy, the allegations leave little doubt.

Blasko denied many of the statements attributed to him, but the investigator concluded he wasn’t forthcoming. Blasko did concede calling one former principal that sexist expletive.

In a written response to the report, Blasko apologized “to those who were hurt by my actions.” He said he didn’t recall many of the specific alleged incidents, but “I do not question the integrity of the people who have contributed to the report, nor do I question the validity of their personal experiences or perceptions.”

Blasko is under contract through July 2025. If the board terminates the contract, he would be eligible for a year’s worth of severance pay. His annual salary is nearly $250,000, and he’s in line for a cost of living increase July 1.

Under the contract, he can appeal, a process that could take several months to resolve.

In the meantime, directors are in the market for a new acting superintendent. Kim Whitworth, who has handled the leadership role since December, will return to her duties as the district’s chief academic officer July 1.

Jennifer Bumpus

Jennifer Bumpus

“We know she is looking forward to returning to the role that she loves,” Bumpus wrote.

The board hopes to get someone on board as close as possible to July 1, according to a district spokesperson. How long they would be in that role is yet to be determined.

Bumpus made clear directors want an experienced administrator who can set a different tone.

“Based on what we have heard from our community over the last several months, our goal is to find an experienced leader, skilled in building positive culture, and authentic community engagement,” she wrote in the letter to the community.

One of Blasko’s sharpest critics on Friday acknowledged the board cannot rush to judgment.

“We understand that the board has to follow procedure and law,” said Melanie Ryan of the Monroe Equity Council, in an email. “We hope that the new information that they will be hiring an interim superintendent is an indication they will be terminating him.

“We also understand the community’s frustration with the process,” she continued, “and the ongoing desire and need to express the expectation to the Board, which has historically supported Blasko, that he be terminated.”

Blasko was promoted to the district’s top job in February 2020 and given a three-year contract. Last summer, the board approved another three-year contract that ran through June 30, 2024, to replace his original deal. Then, on Nov. 22, the outgoing board amended the contract to extend it to June 30, 2025.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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