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Jill Louters, superintendent of the New Rockford-Sheyenne, N.D., Public School District. Special to Forum News Service

Central ND school board rejects call to ax superintendent

NEW ROCKFORD, N.D. — The New Rockford-Sheyenne School Board has voted against a recommendation to fire Superintendent Jill Louters for having stayed in the same hotel room with her son and unrelated fifth-grade boys during an archery tournament in Minot in March.

The vote to dismiss Louters for chaperoning the boys without the permission of all of their families failed by a 2-4 margin Tuesday, May 29, said School Board President John McKnight.

McKnight, who was the sole investigator in the case, resigned following the vote to retain Louters, who's a finalist for a seat on North Dakota's Board of Higher Education.

"I resigned at that meeting," McKnight said. "I do not agree" with the board's action.

"They did not once take into account the family of the child that was affected," said McKnight, who said he believes it's important to make sure that room chaperones are the same sex as the children for whom they have responsibility.

"It's not a false accusation. She did admit that it did happen. I don't want to be involved with an organization like that," McKnight said. "To me, there is a moral and ethical and personal standard that males should be with males and females should be with females."

Voting to dismiss Louters were board Vice President Todd Duchscherer and board member Roger Duda. Members Alyson Myhre, Eric Myhre, Mary Kay Price and John Grann voted against the motion. McKnight recused himself from the vote.

Duchscherer has taken over leadership of the board, McKnight said.

In an email, Louters said she didn't violate any policies and no sanctions were taken against her. She said the vote reflected the board's agreement with her stance.

"I have received very positive feedback and support from the community. I was overwhelmed by the support of the approximately 50 citizens attending and supporting me. It was the largest number of people ever in attendance at a board meeting," Louters wrote.

McKnight said he began investigating the incident after complaints were forwarded to him following the North Dakota National Archery in the Schools Program State Tournament in Minot on March 23-24.

McKnight said Louters "stayed in a room with her son and three other fifth-grade males" on March 23.

McKnight said he elected to keep all aspects of the investigation from the school board under wraps before presenting his findings, so the board's decision-making process would not be tainted. He said he also told Louters several times not to talk about the incident.

However, he said Louters held a meeting with school staff a week before graduation, informing them of what had occurred and telling them she could be fired.

"That's when the teachers started a campaign to sway the board to try and not let her go," McKnight said. "I think she intentionally tainted the board by creating this effort to come forward and support her."

McKnight said he's not losing any sleep over his decision to step down. "I had the best night's sleep. I've been working on this since April 4. Trying to keep it quiet, I played by the rules and I lost," he said.

Louters has been superintendent of New Rockford-Sheyenne Public School District since 2012. The district is in Eddy County, about 160 miles northwest of Fargo.

Louters previously served as principal of Faribault Middle School for eight years, and resigned in August 2007, according to reports in the Faribault Daily News.

Her resignation was accepted by the Faribault School Board in September 2007 at a special meeting. A separation agreement hammered out between attorneys for Louters and the school district said Louters had decided to return to graduate school and opted to resign immediately. The agreement also called for the Faribault School District to pay her a lump sum of $40,000 within 30 days.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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