D29 board receives legal advice as superintendent remains on leave

After receiving legal advice, the Williston District 29 School Board remains tight-lipped about why Superintendent Dr. Missoura Ashe is on leave.

During a special-called Sept. 5 meeting, the board met in closed session to receive legal advice and discuss an employment matter related to the superintendent. No action was taken after the board returned to open session, but Chairwoman Ferlecia Cuthbertson issued a statement afterwards.

"As many of you know, the superintendent is presently on leave. The board has taken appropriate steps to ensure that our schools continue to operate smoothly and that the needs of students, parents, and the community continue to be addressed by the staff at the school and district levels," said Cuthbertson.

However, she stated that she and her fellow board members are "limited with respect to addressing questions from the news media and others regarding Dr. Ashe’s absence. Our school system has a legal obligation to adhere to all privacy laws with regard to its employees."

This was the first time the board addressed the matter since employees were sent an email the week before stating Dr. Ashe is currently on leave, although it didn't elaborate. Human Resources Coordinator Stephanie Alford was cited as the person who is addressing calls and matters typically handled by Ashe.

Though details have not been released, Cuthbertson said, "Rest assured that the board will make other announcements as necessary or appropriate."

The People-Sentinel submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Cuthbertson at the conclusion of the meeting seeking details about why Ashe is on leave, including the circumstances behind it. The board has 10 business days to respond to the request. Allotting for the two days schools were closed due to Hurricane Irma, District 29 has until September 21, 2017.

While the board and district remains mum on Ashe's leave, Cuthbertson thanked employees for continuing to do their jobs. "My fellow board members and I wish to thank teachers, principals, support staff, and administrators for the manner in which they have remained focused on the primary goal of Williston School District 29—providing children with a safe environment while delivering high-quality instruction and guidance on a daily basis."

Ashe has been superintendent since March 2015 and received a contract extension through June 30, 2019 after her first performance evaluation last September.