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First, They Ousted The Superintendent. Now Center School Board Plans Search For A New One

Barbara Shelly
KCUR 89.3
Center School District board members gave no reasons for the departure of Superintendent Sharon Nibbelink when they met Monday night.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. June 6, 2019, with terms of the superintendent's buyout — The Center School District must pay more than $400,000 to buy out the contract of former superintendent Sharon Nibbelink.

Per the mutual termination agreement reached with the district that KCUR obtained via a public records request, the district owes Nibbelink two lump sum payments of $200,000. That's roughly the value of her base salary plus benefits. The district also has to buy her a half-year retirement credit under the state’s pension plan for an additional $24,367.

Nibbelink and the district agreed to a non-disclosure clause, but in an email to KCUR, the board vice president and his wife, Paul and Julie Kramschuster, complained about teacher turnover, writing that Nibbelink was “reviled” by staff.

Nibbelink could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Original story from June 4: Newly elected school board members for the Center School District hadn’t been seated for even a week this spring before board president Marcie Calvin called for a closed meeting. That session set in motion the unexpected and forced departure of district Superintendent Sharon Nibbelink. 
Three months earlier, in January, the board had voted to extend Nibbelink’s contract for an additional year. But school board elections on April 2 changed everything.

Two new members, both with ties to Calvin, were elected to the seven-member board.  Along with board vice president Paul Kramschuster, they formed a four-member bloc that appeared determined to remove Nibbelink, a respected educator with deep ties to the district.

The district announced two weeks ago that the board and Nibbelink had reached a “mutual agreement to separate.” Assistant Superintendent Michael Weishaar was named acting superintendent.

After a meeting of the board Monday, which mostly took place in closed session, Calvin referred all questions to the district’s public relations director. “I can’t make any statement on that, other than what we’ve released to the press,” she said. “It is confidential.”

But longtime board member Joe Nastasi said Wednesday he was dismayed by Nibbelink’s departure.

“I have a profound sense of appreciation to Dr. Nibbelink for her over 20 years of service to the Center School district,” Nastasi said. “I am concerned about the process that was used to, in my opinion, force her out.”

Nastasi said Calvin, Kramschuster and new members Ronald Fritz and Danielle Quinn had given Nibbelink little choice but to accept a negotiated settlement.

“Elections have consequences, and people need to make sure before they vote for people that they aren’t running with hidden agendas,” he said.

Nibbelink has been with the district since 1992, as a counselor, alternative high school principal and administrator. She became superintendent in March 2015.

As the district’s leader, Nibbelink oversaw a strong 90.4 percent score in the district’s latest annual performance review by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Under her watch, a bond issue put before voters in April received an overwhelming 82 percent approval.

Nibbelink had also recently overseen the rollout of “Impact Center,” a collaboration with churches and social service groups to try to get district families in stable housing. And she took an active role in researching and sometimes questioning tax increment finance deals that would deprive her district of tax revenue.

Nibbelink’s departure leaves the board in search of a superintendent for the school year beginning in August. Members are expected to meet next week to begin to set up a process.

Correction: The story originally misstated the score on the annual performance review as 94 percent. The score is 90.4 percent.

KCUR education reporter Elle Moxley contributed to this report. Barbara Shelly is a freelance contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at bshellykc@gmail.com.

Barbara Shelly is a freelance reporter and editor based in Kansas City, Missouri.
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