Cedar Falls Superintendent Resigns

By Holly Hudson, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

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By Ryan Jones

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Cedar Falls superintendent Mike Wells has resigned after nearly being fired by the Cedar Falls Board of Education Wednesday night.

The action came during a special board meeting called by the Board. Wells had said he was going to resign Monday, only to rescind it.

The board voted 5-2 vote in support of accepting his resignation.

At the board meeting, the board was deciding whether to vote to fire him, when he resigned.

About 100 people – teachers, parents and other community members – attended the meeting in support of Wells. They gave him a standing ovation when he entered the room.

Following the motion to terminate his contract, Wells addressed the board, pleading his case as to why he should remain on as superintendent.

“This is hard for all of you, as well as me,” he said.

“I told you when you hired me, if you don’t want change, don’t hire me. … I’ve done exactly what I told you I would do.

“You guys selected me,” Wells continued. “You guys made the decision.”

Wells admitted to making mistakes, but didn’t feel any of them were “fatal errors.”

Board members Dave Williams and Jim Brown spoke in support of Wells, while members Jim Kenyon, Jenny Leeper, Joyce Coil and Susan Lantz voiced their support for termination.

When it became clear the board would vote to terminate, Wells asked that he be allowed to resign.

“That would help me in the future,” he said.

Following a discussion in a separate room between Board President Deon Senchina, Board Secretary Doug Nefzger, Board attorney John Larsen and Wells, the motion to terminate was rescinded, and Wells read his letter of resignation.

As for the reasons for the board’s actions, the original motion to terminate Wells’ contract mentioned his failure to maintain the confidence of the board, and in a brief press conference following the meeting, Senchina said the decision was based on his job performance. She would not give any specifics.

Wells will stay on as superintendent until his one-year contract ends June 30.

EARLIER STORY

CEDAR FALLS --- Cedar Falls superintendent Mike Wells has resigned after nearly being fired by the Cedar Falls Board of Education Wednesday night.

The action came during a special board meeting called by the Board. Wells had said he was going to resign Monday, only to rescind it.

The board voted 5-2 vote in support of accepting his resignation.

At the board meeting, the board was deciding whether to vote to fire him, when he resigned.

We will update this story soon.

EARLIER STORY

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The Cedar Falls Board of Education will hold a special board meeting today to take "action on the superintendent's employment contract."

The meeting notice comes after Superintendent Mike Wells sent out a letter of resignation to staff of the school district Monday, only to pull the resignation at the beginning of the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Wells said he believed he had the support of the board and would continue on as superintendent.

Wells has been superintendent since July and is working on a one-year contract. But there have been a series of closed-door meetings by the board pertaining to his mid-year evaluation that have taken place since December. The final meeting was Thursday. No details about the nature of the discussions in the meetings has been revealed.

Board President Deon Senchina said Monday night that Wells would remain superintendent through his contract, which expires June 30.

But the next day, the board called for today's special meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. at the James L. Robinson Administrative Center, 1002 W. First St.

The only item on the agenda is the "action on superintendent's employment contract."

Originally, the board had a work session on the high school project set for today, according to Wells.

"I'm disappointed we will be missing a work session," he said.

Wells was notified of the special meeting by the board secretary at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

"I am expecting to be offered a contract and to continue leading this district," Wells said.

In his letter of resignation, addressed to the Board of Education but reportedly sent out to the entire staff, Wells said "I have no regrets as to my attempts to get (my) goals accomplished. I have not been perfect, but my intentions and integrity in pursuing those goals have always had what is best for our community's children as my focus."

The letter said he would resign at the end of the contract year.

Repeated attempts to get board members to comment about what happened Monday, and what led up to it, were unsuccessful. Board member Dave Williams was reached but declined comment on the situation, noting he would reserve anything he had to say for board meetings.

A Wells supporter spoke on his behalf Tuesday. North Cedar Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hartman attended the board meeting Monday with several other staff members.

"We wanted to really show him that we support him no matter what," she said.

"I have been so excited with the vision that he has," Hartman said. "Most importantly, he is just a really good person.

"I know he has that vision and is wanting to move us forward from good to great," she said. "Change is hard for anyone. He is doing what's best for the district."

Hartman said she was not aware Wells was considering resigning until he sent the email to district staff, informing them of his decision.

"I was sick to my stomach," she said. "I know he has really tried to do his very best. He loves Cedar Falls."

Hartman said after Wells withdrew his letter of resignation, there was a "collective sigh of relief."

"I do know that those I've talked to say resoundingly this man is the right person for the job. He has our best interests at heart. We are so fortunate to have him in Cedar Falls. I would be devastated if he left."

Teacher Jim Young, president of the Cedar Falls Education Association, described Wells' resignation and later reversal as a shock.

"It came as a surprise to everybody on staff," he said. "We are not aware of any details behind it."

Young first learned of Wells' intention to resign when he received an email that was sent to all school district staff Monday. "He said he wanted us to hear it from him rather than from the media or in the newspapers," said Young. "He sent out an email this morning --- very brief --- of his change of mind, of the board's support."

At this point, Young said he was uncertain about what sort of effect the upheaval will have on the district. "I don't know how that will impact moving forward," he said.

Wells and the board have been discussing various proposals, including the possibility of remodeling the high school or building a new one in another location.

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