Stillwater Area School District board looks at discussing possible separation agreement with superintendent

Updated: July 11, 2019 10:44 PM

The Stillwater Area School District board is starting talks about possible new district leadership.

Thursday morning Clerk Sarah Stivland introduced a resolution to give her and Board Chair Mike Ptacek the ability to talk with Superintendent Denise Pontrelli about a possible separation agreement.


“It is clear, it is clear to me something needs to change,” said Stivland.

The board passed the resolution, 5-2.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Stivland said. “It’s my intention that we will have these authentic conversations that will find some solutions that will work.”

Superintendent Pontrelli released a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, saying in part, “I have no interest in entering into exploratory conversations with the school board to pursue a possible separation agreement.” Read her full statement below.

There’s been a rift in the district since three schools were closed about two years ago.

“It really ripped our community apart,” said Carrie Kleczka.

Her neighborhood school was closed, forcing her now 10-year-old daughter to move after second grade. Her other daughter, 7, also attends the new school.

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“Unless we have a complete change in our administration I don’t think that divide is ever going to heal,”said Kleczka.

Not everyone agrees.

“I felt this was a spiteful action and I don’t agree this was the right thing to do,” said Jennifer Pelletier, one of the school board members who voted against the resolution.

“We are on a forward trajectory.”

She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she feels the board should have had the chance to discuss the idea before it was brought up at the meeting.

“I am really deeply disappointed in the lack of character and transparency I have seen in this,” said Pelletier. “I don’t think this action is going to heal the community.”

She also raised concerns about the cost of a buyout, saying the district doesn’t have the $400,000 to $500,000 it would cost.

Superintendent Pontrelli has two years remaining on her contract.

Other supporters of the superintendent voiced concerns about the early meeting time and the lack of public comment.

“I thought it was horrible. It never should've come to this,” said Gary Horning, a district taxpayer. “We’re just kind of stuck in a rut, and I quite frankly don’t know what the way out is.”

Stivland said the vote only gives them the legal ability to discuss this with the superintendent but it may not result in a separation agreement.

“My goal is to find ways to improve our school district and I really am open to whatever that looks like,” said Stivland.

She said any decision made will be brought before the full board for a vote, with the chance for public comment.

Statement from Superintendent Denise Pontrelli:

"I have no interest in entering into exploratory conversations with the school board to pursue a possible separation agreement. I believe this conversation would only serve to further divide our community, stretch our already stretched resources, and create more disruption and change in our system - none of which would be in the best interest of our students.

I am incredibly proud of the work underway within our district on behalf of our students. We continually hear from our teachers in the buildings that they feel supported and appreciate the direction we’re moving. Parents continually share their satisfaction with what is happening in our schools. And our students have more voice and are more engaged than ever.

I remain interested in collaborating with this school board to work through concerns together. I believe we have the opportunity to model to our students and community what it looks like to work through differences to come to a positive outcome. That is my focus both today and into the future."

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Callan Gray

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