SW superintendent resigns

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Southwest Superintendent Richard Asbill submitted a letter of resignation to the R-V School Board last Thursday night during the board's monthly meeting.

In presenting his resignation to the board, Asbill said it had been a pleasure to "work with such a fine group of educators and outstanding students."

"I am honored to be part of the improvements that have occurred over the past several years at the Southwest R-V School District," Asbill said.

In his letter, Asbill points to the progress made by the district under his leadership.

"Southwest R-V School District has accomplished and made great strides toward improving the total school environment," wrote Asbill. "Teachers and students continue to work extremely hard to increase our state assessment and proficiency scores.

"Building principals continue to strive to make every aspect of their building programs more effective," Asbill continued. "Southwest is making great progress."

The letter also outlines the measures taken under Asbill's tenure to ensure the district's fiscal stability.

"As requested by the Board of Education, budget balances were protected and the taxpayer dollar spent wisely," Asbill wrote. "While some fiscal decisions were tough, I believe that those decisions improved the overall status of the district."

Asbill also writes in his letter of resignation about the continuing differences he has with one school board member.

"It has become difficult to maintain an appropriate degree of professional discretion within my position when dealing with the maligning, and at times, unethical behaviors of a board member," Asbill said. "It has become too personal when those self-centered efforts undermine the outstanding school improvement efforts of teachers and administrators or the modest achievements I have made in my professional life," Asbill wrote. "I will not subject my family and friends/colleagues, my beliefs or my career to such a person or persons who thrive on self-centered efforts to tear down what does not benefit themselves."

In a telephone interview on Monday, Asbill said he would be leaving the district with no ill will.

"This was a very, very difficult decision for me to make," said Asbill in a telephone interview on Monday. "The decision I made is in the best interest of my family and the school."

When asked about his plans for the future, Asbill said he had no job lined up, although he had applied for a couple of positions.

"This is the proverbial leap of faith," said Asbill. "I'm doing what I felt led to do."

Asbill said the timing of his resignation was designed to give the school board plenty of time to find a qualified replacement.

"I have no ill feelings for the district," said Asbill. "They need a good leader, and there was no point in waiting until March or April (to submit my resignation) and leaving them in the lurch. Regardless of the personal differences I have with one individual, the district's best interests are more important."

Since the last school board election in April of 2005, the Southwest R-V School Board has found itself divided on several different issues.

Recently released minutes from two closed sessions of the Southwest R-V School District reveal that the individual Asbill refers to in his letter of resignation is board member Janet Ballard. The minutes were released on Jan. 12 by unanimous school board vote upon the recommendation of James H. Klahr, assistant attorney general for the State of Missouri.

In a May 26, 2005, communication from Asbill to Danny Dalton, president of the R-V School Board, Asbill outlines incidences of alleged harassment by Ballard. He stated that a "constant under-current of rumors, statements, allegations and conversations that are harmful to the educational process has restricted teachers and administrators. While most likely not alone in these behaviors, Janet Ballard continues to be the alleged source of much of these efforts to undermine and damage the professional and legal right reputation that teachers and administrators have."

Asbill asked that the board provide Ballard with a verbal and written reprimand for her behavior and requested that Ballard resign from the board. Asbill also said the district could face claims of liability if Ballard failed "to resign and refrain from slanderous and unethical actions."

According to minutes from an executive session held by the R-V School Board on May 26, Ballard denied she made remarks about Asbill. She also stated that she was tired of false accusations and felt that the board wanted to get rid of herself and the two other new board members. The minutes noted that Ballard said she felt "attacked."

In response, Asbill cited examples of people who told him that Ballard had made slanderous comments about him regarding "money, ethics or other issues." He noted that he had at least three people who would be willing to come forward and verify that Ballard had been making unethical and slanderous comments about him.

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