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Fired St. Joseph School District Superintendent Lands Job In Missouri Bootheel

Sam Zeff

The former superintendent whose actions created the current scandals dogging the St. Joseph, Missouri, School District has landed a new job in education.

Fred Czerwonka, who was fired following a scathing state audit report, has been hired by the tiny Caruthersville School District tucked into the Bootheel of Missouri, according to Superintendent J.J. Bullington. Czerwonka's wife, Wendy, has also been hired and will teach business at the high school.

Czerwonka will be director of school services. The Czerwonkas will start their new jobs on July 1.

Czerwonka was fired by the St. Joseph Board of Education in March after the state auditor released a report that uncovered $40 million in unapproved stipends, no-bid contracts, nepotism and a string of Missouri Sunshine Act violations.

The FBI and a federal grand jury have been investigating the district since April of 2014.

Credit Caruthersville School District
Caruthersville School Superintendent J.J. Bullington

When asked if she was worried about Czerwonka's firing or the fact that he and his wife have both been interviewed numerous times by the FBI Bullington said, "not at this time."

Caruthersville School Board President Bill Reno had a terse "no comment" and hung up the phone when asked to comment.

There are about 1,100 students in the Caruthersville district. That's much smaller than the 11,000 students Czerwonka oversaw in St. Joseph, but closer to his educational roots. Czerwonka was superintendent in West Plains, Missouri, before taking the St. Joseph job. There are about 2,500 students in West Plains.

Wendy Czerwonka was in charge of homeless programs in St. Joseph. She received a substantial and controversial raise last year about the same time it was revealed her husband handed out secret $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators.

Both the FBI and state auditor began their investigations after the stipends became public.

"Quite surprised," is how St. Joseph School Board member Chris Danford reacted when told of Cerwonka's new job. "With all that has happened, certainly with the ongoing FBI investigation, I'm surprised."

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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