WAUKEE, Iowa — Waukee Schools Superintendent Cindi McDonald plans to step down at the end of the current school year. The decision comes after a rocky December when a state audit found the district misspent $130,000 and former COO Eric Rose was charged with three felonies.
The groundwork for the saga was laid in 2016 when Rose was investigated by police over his management, keeping school property at his home, and illegally altering time cards.
Police felt like they had enough to charge Rose, but former Dallas County Attorney Wayne Reisetter did not press charges. After hearing complaints from constituents, two state lawmakers got involved in December of 2017.
“I, together with Representative Rob Taylor, decided to ask the State Auditor to conduct an independent audit of the school district,” said Republican State Senator Charles Schneider.
A year later on December 6, the auditor released her report finding $130,000 in questionable spending.
On December 7, Rose was placed on administrative leave, and December 15 Rose turned himself in after being charged with two counts of soliciting to commit a felony and one count of felonious misconduct. Two days later, Rose resigned. And on January 11, Superintendent Cindi McDonald announced she intends to retire a year before her contract is due to expire.
Over the course of this timeline, the district had to pay a total of $1.3 million in settlements after whistleblowers lost their jobs.
Parents say a change in leadership was needed.
“We need someone that can obviously rebuild the trust. I mean, right now the trust of Waukee is not there, and that goes through the whole school board,” said Lynn Hakenson.
That being said, things won’t be wrapped up with a new hire. Looking towards the future, the school board will vote on McDonald’s resignation on January 14, Rose’s trial is scheduled for March 1, and there is still one civil case open alleging retaliation for reporting on Rose.
Senator Schneider hopes fresh leadership will help stabilize the district.
“It’s good to see that some action is finally being taken. It’s good to see the Dallas County Prosecutor is prosecuting the former COO, and the decision by the superintendent to resign gives the district an opportunity to move on with a clean slate and focus on what’s really important, which is educating the kids,” said Schneider.
In her letter to parents and staff, McDonald says she is leaving with “mixed emotions”. A spokesperson for the district says she was not asked by the school board to resign.