School board members in Lansing, Kansas, have voted 4-1 for the immediate dismissal of Superintendent Mike Wilson, 49, for allegedly sending “salacious” eMail using a school district computer. School board president Terri Harris cast the lone dissenting vote.
The action came early in November and capped a tense and frustrating two months for Lansing residents. The turmoil went public on Sept. 7 when Wilsonciting family issuesoffered his resignation, effective June 30, 2000. On Sept. 20, the board accepted Wilson’s resignation.
At the same meeting, board member Helen Wilber announced she was resigning her seat on the board, telling reporters, “I just felt like I was spinning my wheels and wasting my time.” Later, Wilber said she believed Wilson’s resignation should have come sooner.
The trouble escalated one month later, when the board suspended the lame-duck superintendentall the while, leaving parents and educators guessing as to what was really going on.
According to a school district source who spoke with eSchool News on condition of anonymity, the controversy dated back to August. That’s when district employees received packets of information containing a complaint against Wilson and copies of “extremely graphic” eMail messages allegedly exchanged between Wilson and a woman in the community.
Board members received similar packets, according to the Kansas City Star. An initial report in the Star said the packets were sent anonymously, with no return address. But according to eSchool News’ source, more recent evidence suggests the packets containing copies of the eMail were sent by the woman’s husband.
Less than a month after accepting Wilson’s resignation effective at the end of the current school year, the board received “new information of some concern by central office staff employees of a nature not fully known,” the district’s attorney, Peter Curran, told the public cryptically.
According to the eSchool News informant, the “new information” was the discovery by a secretary that the allegedly salacious eMail messages originated from her own computer in the district office, where Wilson had set up an eMail account because his computer had been malfunctioning at the time.
That’s when the board suspended Wilson with pay from his $79,275-a-year position and began its investigation. The board gave residents no explanation for its actions.
In a written statement given to the press on Oct. 18, Wilson admitted he “inappropriately received and sent private eMail messages to some people over the internet” on a district-owned computer.
He declined to reveal the contents of those messages, saying only that they were inappropriate because he had used the computer for “personal use during the work day.” He also claimed that some of the documents contained in the packets were not from his computer, saying he had never seen them before.
The school board meeting that culminated in Wilson’s dismissal also saw the resignation of a second board member, Tony Rush, who told reporters he was leaving the board partly because of the stress the whole situation caused.
Neither Wilson nor any board member returned telephone calls from eSchool News.