Archive for Friday, April 24, 2009

Zoellner resigns from USD 232, takes top job in Louisburg

Unified School District 232 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Zoellner (left) goes over the latest vote return numbers on a school bond issue with Susan Sipe, director of special service in the district, in this November 2008 photo. Both Zoellner and Sipe, along with Bret Church, USD 232 executive director of teaching and learning services, submitted their resignations on Friday, April 24.

Unified School District 232 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Zoellner (left) goes over the latest vote return numbers on a school bond issue with Susan Sipe, director of special service in the district, in this November 2008 photo. Both Zoellner and Sipe, along with Bret Church, USD 232 executive director of teaching and learning services, submitted their resignations on Friday, April 24.

April 24, 2009, 8:15 a.m.

Updated: April 24, 2009, 2:01 p.m.

Related document
Unified School District 232 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Zoellner (left) goes over the latest vote return numbers on a school bond issue with Susan Sipe, director of special service in the district, in this November 2008 photo. Both Zoellner and Sipe, along with Bret Church, USD 232 executive director of teaching and learning services, submitted their resignations on Friday, April 24.

Unified School District 232 Superintendent Dr. Sharon Zoellner (left) goes over the latest vote return numbers on a school bond issue with Susan Sipe, director of special service in the district, in this November 2008 photo. Both Zoellner and Sipe, along with Bret Church, USD 232 executive director of teaching and learning services, submitted their resignations on Friday, April 24.

A special meeting Friday morning of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education ended with the board accepting the resignation of Superintendent of Schools Sharon Zoellner. Later in the morning, Zoellner was hired by Louisburg USD 416 as superintendent.

In Louisburg, Zoellner will succeed Rick Doll, who recently accepted a position as superintendent in the Lawrence USD 497.

Alvie Cater, De Soto district's communication director, said Zoellner's resignation was effective June 30. She begins July 1 in Louisburg.

Cater said the Board will begin developing a plan of action to find new leadership. The Board meets again at the regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. May 4 at District Administrative Building.

The Board will begin the process of developing a plan of action to find new leadership. It will meet again on May 4, 2009, at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Board of Education building, 35200 West 91st Street, De Soto, KS

De Soto USD 232 board members went into executive session to discuss non-elected personnel at the start of the early-morning meeting, which lasted roughly a half an hour. At the conclusion board members accepted the resignations of three administrators, including Zoellner.

Board members Jim Thomas, Bill Fletcher, Randy Johnson and Larry Meyer attended in person, while Janine Gracy, Tim Blankenship and Don Clark attended via phone.

In the closed session, Zoellner submitted her letter of resignation to the board. When the board returned to public session, Zoellner's resignation was accepted on a 6-1 vote, with Thomas in dissent.

Zoellner came to the district in August 1989 as principal of Countryside Intermediate Elementary. In February 1993, she was named district director of finance and student services. Promotions to assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent followed. In 2003, she was named to replace her longtime mentor, Marilyn Layman, who had retired.

In May 2008, Zoellner accepted a new, three-year contract for the De Soto post. The contract set a base salary of $161,429 per year with fringe benefits and reimbursements. Those benefits included 25 days paid vacation, $630 per month for automobile reimbursment for travel within the distrct, a communications allowance of $135 per month for cell phone and Internet services.

Zoellner earned her doctorate in educational administration from Kansas University and a masters from Emporia State. Her undergraduate degree is from Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo.

In a letter to the community Friday, Zoellner expressed her concern about recent actions by the De Soto board.

"It is my professional opinion that the Board is now moving in a direction that is diametrically opposed to what is best for the students, staff, and patrons of this school district," her letter said.

Zoellner said she was committed to working with the board over the next several months to ensure a smooth transition. She said she also would make herself available to the new leadership team so the district moves forward without disruption.

"These last 20 years, six as Superintendent, have been the most rewarding of my professional career. It is the wonderful people with whom I have been able to work that mean so much to me," the letter said.

The board also accepted the resignations of Bret Church, executive director of teaching and learning services, and Susan Sipe, director of special services.

Church’s resignation was accepted with a vote of 6-1 with Meyer in dissent.

The board accepted Sipe’s resignation with a vote of 5-2 with Thomas and Meyer in dissent.

Church and Sipe's resignations also are effective June 30.

Zoellner was present at Friday's meeting, but did not attend the executive session. Church and Sipe were not present at the meeting.

Friday's resignations, coupled with several previously announced resignations, leave the De Soto district with several key positions to fill before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. At the board's April 20 meeting, it was recommended the superintendent create and advertise for two new administrative positions. The two positions, associate superintendent of education services and associate superintendent of business and operations, will be salaried through the contingency reserve funds.

Also at the April 20 meeting, the board recommended the nonrenewal of contract for director of policy and research, Joe Vitt. At a special meeting April 13, the board accepted the resignation of Mill Valley High School principal Joe Novak. Novak has worked in the district for 20 years. He will continue to work part-time as a leadership consultant within the district.

Check back at and for updates to this story, and read more about the story in Wednesday's edition of The Dispatch and Thursday's Explorer.


ConcernedParent 7 years, 4 months ago

Thank God That nightmare is over, Now hope the Board can put aside differences and clean up the rest of this mess. I also hope that A new Superintendent is hired that will support the teachers and listen (really listen) to the parents. Principles of some of the elementary schools need to be reviewed very closely.


Sky 7 years, 4 months ago

i am very happy that ms. zoellner and ms. sipes are leaving! i too hope more follow. ms. anderson, from clc should follow these two women. I feel that would be in the best interest of the students at clc. i have felt ms. anderson has been misleading on isome nformation.


ted232 7 years, 4 months ago

Obviously Sharon Zoellner has taken the low approach with her comment regarding the school boards direction as “diametrically” wrong. As far as her helping in the transition I would encourage the board to demand that she clean out her desk by Monday morning. Zoellners leadership ability in this district was below standards and it showed glowingly at the last board meeting. No need to continue the relationship as she obviously has looked elsewhere for employement. As for Susan Sipes her very brief employement histories with several school districts should have been a tell tale warning sign before being hired in the first place, however with the lack of leadership displayed by Zoellner this should come as no surprise to anyone.

It appears the sudden resignations of Joe Vitt and Joe Novack had a chain reaction effect and they apparently had enough support from teachers even after their resignations to bring down Zoellner, Sipes and Church.

It is to bad tenured educators such as Novack and Vitt were apparently slammed into resignation it would be interesting to hear their side of this debacle.

The gross lack of leadership, communication with parents, unaccountability, honesty and most of all lack of trust helped bring this administration down. Don't ask me to vote in favor of a new bond issue anytime soon until these issues are addressed!

Potentially the new canidates for Zoellner's job might take interest in reading the painted blocks and what is written upon them leading into The Starside Elementary School entrance. It would serve them well.

Ashame some people in their high positions don't think of their jobs as a priveledge rather than a right.


getreal 7 years, 4 months ago

Don't expect the door to be trampled with applicants to fill these positions. First, there is a shortage of school administrators. Second, do you really think anyone in their right mind wants to come to a district where the patrons and some board members behave so badly? One board member has even been slapped with a protective order against a patron. Real respectable board members.

The board thinks that spending their contingency reserve funds on more administrators is a wise move with even more cuts coming from Topeka. What impact is this going to have on the classroom? Larger class sizes and less teachers.

I suspect this new board with most of its members unqualified in education will make a bigger debacle in the next few months than they already have.

Patrons, be careful what you wish for.


WestShawneeResident 7 years, 4 months ago

Do you honestly believe anyone in their right mind will take this job? They would need to be masochistic. With the total lack of support from a few members of the BOE coupled with venomous rumors from some of the patrons, I asked her last year why she would stay and keep taking it. I certainly would not have! I admired her for the grace she always exhibited under the fire. She must have been at her limit. Woe to the new Superintendent, whomever it may be, because it probably won't take long until these same mudslingers will fabricate reasons to tell the same old story and make his/her life H*ll.


ted232 7 years, 4 months ago

The whine continues from eastern shawnee/lenexa side of the "DESOTO" school district. It is amazing some of you people cannot stand the stigma of the word "DESOTO". Yes go ahead and stick your noses up at the less affluent, older population on the other side of the district. I've heard whispers at so many school board meetings, "My God don't bus my children to Desoto High!" The negatitvity is so amazing certain so-called affluent Shawnee/Lenexa sections cannot even accept the name "DESOTO"! OMG people get over yourselves! I can remember talk of trying to seperate Mill Valley High and merge with SMD several years ago. The stuck up attitudes are amazing but fail to prevail.Thank goodness! Getting out and voting counts!

Zoellner is a poor adminstrator plain and simple. The lack of leadership, seeking input on bond issues, simple common sense and most of all communication with the teachers and patrons was her downfall. The comments the teachers and patrons made are recorded in the board minutes I suggest anyone read them.

As far a shortage of leadership, educated administrators wanting to apply for superintendent? I doubt that holds true at all. The Shawnne Mission Schools had issues and problems of the same management style exhibited by Zoellner. Eventually as in a bad marriage Chopra left the district and they found an outstanding administrator who knew how to treat the patrons and teachers alike with respect and leadeship.

Perhaps that person we need is in the Desoto School district now?


ConcernedParent 7 years, 4 months ago

Ted232 Well said except I do not feel that all the people on the East side have that viewpoint, I being one of them, and many of my neighbors as well. That being said, you have a valid point as there are people here that do talk and act that way. Plain and simple Zoellner had to go. Here leadership was lacking and her integrity was suspect at best. Her handling of the Stithem situation was horrid and very unprofessional. Teachers being cowed into not speaking up due to fear of reprisal is well documented. All I can say as onward and upward and the board needs to do what is required that we do not get someone like that in here again.


Sky 7 years, 4 months ago

May I ask what is the "Stithem situation?" I have a child in his school and have not heard anything regarding him.


ted232 7 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for your comments "Concerneparent" although I said "some" people in my last post not "all". This has been an ongoing issue within the district for years. I should not bean issue period!

Yes Zoellners integrity is suspect . Unfortunately I have heard information which if it turns out to be accurate may involve expensive litigation and further episodes of enlightenment to the patrons of the Desoto School District.

Zoellner obviously elected to "clean house" by the eliminating a few key administration personnel before annoucing her resignation. The most recent resignations should be re-evaluated by the Desoto School Board carefully. Chopra did the same thing when he resigned from the Shawnnee Mission District, his career shortly after became a debacle of which a further investigation through the internet can be provided with anyone who cares to look...


jejns1 7 years, 4 months ago

To Ted 232, Sky and ConcernedParent,

You appear to be a bunch of rumor mongers that are trying to stir up trouble. You should use all that energy for positive change instead of being gossipy malcontents! Spend some time finding out where the untrue rumors are coming from and you may find these are people with personal agendas and chips on their shoulders.


ted232 7 years, 4 months ago


All the rumors I heard two weeks ago turned out to be true. Personal agendas? Chips on their shoulders?

Oh please give it up before whatever is between your ears drops out and you hurt yourself. Do you attend board meetings? I know you can read obviously but can you comprehend news reported in the media or election information? Just curious?

A personal agenda with one board member was to get the public to listen and not support huge bond issues that could not be justified. Glad I listened and voted against the first two! In this economy it appears all the so-called projected growth is dead for the time being. I'm glad the public was smart enough to listen to the facts. If the architects and J.E. Dunn were taken verbatem on the population growth projections in this district what kind of shape would this district be in now?

I hope the new addtions in the recently past bond issue can now be justified? Seen all the "For Sale" signs on homes? Vacant commercial structures? Folks better learn to sacrifice and learn to belt tighten it does not appear we in this economy are going anywhere soon. People like yourself better wake up and make those in charge accountable for where the money is being spent in this district.

As for the: "chips on their shoulders" part of those chips have fallen, some have yet to the land. I as a patron of this district expect accountability,honesty and integrity not just a rubber stamp board!


Sky 7 years, 4 months ago

Jejns, I am not sure what you mean about your comments to me. I was concerend about what the Stithem situation was about, as I do have a child at that school. In regards to my comments about ms. zoellner, ms. sipes and ms. anderson, I do have good reason to state what I stated. ms. zoellner had tried to push someone around that I know. This shool district is much better off with ms. sipes and ms. zoellner leaving. It would be in the interest for ms. anderson to leave too, IMO.


ConcernedParent 7 years, 3 months ago

This is not the proper forum to speak further about the Stithem situation. The facts that I do have are well confirmed. Lets just say that a group of concerned parents went to Zoellner and met with her about the situation. Instead of investigating she made every effort to Intimidate, deflect and not protect the teachers of cce. The end result is he is still there and a lot of wonderful teachers are not. Not to say there are not good teachers still there, but not as many as could have been.

As for rumor mongering. I am much closer to the situations then you might imagine. This district can and will improve and get stronger if the proper steps are taken. It is odd that when I talk to people in other districts they have considered out Superintendent a laughing stock. I feel sorry for Louisburg and hope that she has learned her lesson and can make the changes to make her a successful and supportive leader.


ConcernedParent 7 years, 3 months ago

Oh by the way JeJns1, I have no personal agenda or chip on my shoulder. I am a concerned parent that have heard and seen things within this district that affect the education of my children. It is truly shocking to me that people have placed there head in the sand for so long. Change is finally coming lets just hope it is the correct direction that is chosen. Lets all pray that this difficult and momentous decisions are made correctly for the kids in this district.


Sky 7 years, 3 months ago

True, this is not the format for details about mr. stithem. I just had some concerns about him. Again, I know of a family that was pushed around by ms. zoellner, ms. sipes and ms. anderson regarding their child who was eligible for special needs. Due to their treatment, the family decided to try to do things on their own. Now seeing how ms. zoellner appears to have issues with her own staff and their fear of what she might do to them, just makes it better for everyone that she leaves. Parents and staff should feel safe in their jobs, as long as they are doing their part.


jejns1 7 years, 3 months ago

Oh, TED232, you hurt my feelings.

But as the old saying goes, "I've been called worse, by better"!


ted232 7 years, 3 months ago


Appears by your comment you do not get out much? As for the other commentors thanks you seek information and post your opinions with a little more courtesy. The lastest response By Mr. Clark about sums it up.

No communication by Dr. Zoellner was obviously paramount to her career here, as she is a one person show. Now Mr. Clark you and the school board members know how some if not most of what the parents and teachers in this district feel like.

As for the principal someone was asking about earlier in these post let's just say some people's standards of conduct are different than others. Relationships can be a very tangled web indeed!


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