School Board Reprimands VP – Jim Leister Calls Complaints “Retaliation”

An extra seat was on the stage for Attorney Shana Lewis, an attorney from the Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy firm in Madison, as the Kewaskum School Board met on Monday, Nov. 12.

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An extra seat was on the stage for Attorney Shana Lewis, an attorney from the Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy firm in Madison, as the Kewaskum School Board met on Monday, Nov. 12.

Lewis advised the School Board throughout the meeting, beginning immediately after the Board President Troy Hanson read an introductory statement.

Board Vice President Jim Leister questioned whether that was acceptable since it was not on the meeting agenda. “Open meeting law does not require that you identify ever piece of language that is going to be expressed during a school board meeting,” Lewis said.

“It is perfectly fine for the school board president to include an introductory statement to calling the meeting to order,” Lewis said. Leister then asked about the meeting minutes from the October 29.

The minutes state that a Board Member Timothy Ramthun requested a special meeting and it was scheduled for November 5. That was incorrect, Leister said.

“I was at that meeting. No date was set that night,” Leister said, adding that the Kewaskum Statesman has a recording of the meeting. “The paper certainly has a right [to record meetings],” Superintendent James Smasal said.

“That doesn’t make it official. It makes it her record of what she heard or recorded and not necessarily official record, and therefore it is up to the board to decide if they heard that being said or not.”

Three School Board Members, Mark Sette, Sue Miller and Troy Hanson, said they heard the meeting minutes as written, so the minutes were approved. School Board Member Timothy Ramthun had an excused absence from Monday night’s meeting.

Leister also said that he had not received a any mail notifying him that the special meeting had been scheduled for November 5. Ramthun also notified the Statesman, saying he had not attended the meeting because he had not heard received a phone call from Hanson regarding the special meeting and that he had not received any mail about the meeting date and time.

He quoted State Statute 120.11(2), “ The notice shall be delivered to each school board member personally or shall be left at the usual place of abode of the school board member or shall be mailed by first class mail to the usual place of abode of the school board member so as to arrive at least 24 hours before the special school board meeting.”

However, Lewis said that email is permissable and under that statute, and since all board members had been sent an email with a notice of the meeting, the district had done nothing wrong. During the meeting, the board heard complaints that members of the community had filed against Leister. “There were several complaints about his behavior at at a sporting event or multiple sporting events,” Lewis said.

Lewis then read the complaints that had been filed, reading rude remarks that Leister had called out during football games. The fourth complaint filed on Oct. 29 said Leister made “degrading and bullying comments to the team.”

Leister said he did not swear during any of the comments that thinks it is retaliation because he had voted against selling beer at baseball games on school grounds. Sette made a motion to pass to censure, which can also include publicly disavowing his behavior to show that the board doesn’t stand with his behaviors and that they apologize, and they can also suspend him as a parent from participating and attending school events and report him to WIAA and allow them to take action.

Leister said he would apologize himself if he could continue attending football games because his sons have two years of high school football left and he will do whatever he has to because he wants to watch his boy’s games.

Miller made a motion to censure Leister and issue a letter of reprimand, publicly disavowing his behavior, acknowledging that the board doesn’t approve of it, and adding the ability for the board to remove him from future games if another complaint is made. All members voted in favor.

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