Joelson abruptly leaves Laurens- Marathon

LAURENS – The Laurens-Marathon school district finds itself without a superintendent.

During a school board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Iner Joelson submitted his resignation to the board, effective immediately.

On Tuesday, the school board secretary confirmed that Joelson had already departed the school. She said that the board had not asked for Joelson’s resignation.

School board leader Matt Tate said that the district cannot comment on the reasons for Joelson’s resignation, or whether it came at the choice of the superintendent.

Joelson told the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune newspaper that the departure was difficult.

“It’s not easy to put seven years of your life into something and have to walk away,” he said.

“Essentially, the board and I disagree on some issues and I felt if was best if they look for someone else,” he said, saying the issues that concerned him dealt with finances, open enrollment and the future direction of the K-12 school.

The Pilot-Tribune obtained a copy of the release document detailing an agreement between the district and the superintendent to effect his resignation.

It details that Joelson will continue to receive his full pay and benefits through the end of the school year, when his current contract is scheduled to run out. He will be also be paid $429 per day for more than 53 vacation days – or almost $23,000. The district agreed not to contest any unemployment claim that Joelson might make on the basis of claiming that he had voluntarily quit the job. In the document Joelson acknowledges receipt of “valuable consideration” from the district in conjunction with his resignation agreement, and in return agrees to absolve the district of any liability in the matter “forever.”

The document bears signatures of Joelson, Tate, witnesses and Joelson’s attorney.

The former superintendent said he doesn’t have another job secured, but plans to stay in the education field. One potential position he is looking at would be as a curriculum director.

While clearly disappointed in the end of his career at Laurens-Marathon, he said he “wishes them the best” as he leaves.

The departure was not mentioned in posts on the school district website or the school’s Facebook pages Tuesday.

Joelson had a somewhat stormy tenure at the school. In 2008, Laurens-Marathon students staged a highly publicized sit-in after the termination of a popular principal, Rose Davis. At one point, a petition with more than 100 names was presented to the school board demanding removal of Joelson as superintendent.

Tate said the controversies came before he joined the school board and have been a “non-issue” since. “In small communities, you are always going to have issues come and pass,” he said.

While Tate said that he could not discuss a personnel decision in depth, the resignation does end a period of some uncertainty.

“As far as our district goes we’ve had some – I’m not going to say issues per se – but a lot going on, not knowing for sure where it was headed regarding Mr. Joelson,” he said.

According to Tate, the board placed Joelson on administrative leave for the remainder of the school year after accepting the resignation, “so we can move forward.”

Rumors were flying by Tuesday morning, so an effort was made to inform the school staff about Joelson’s departure.

“We wanted to minimize this disruption and come out of it a better district,” Tate said.

The district will contact the state with a request for help to find a temporary person so it can continue to function and complete the financial planning for the coming academic year.

“We have some things we need to address right away,” Tate said.