by SARAH SQUIRES
The Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board is expected to appoint an interim superintendent at its Thursday night meeting, along with accepting a "separation agreement" with the superintendent that was not available with its public meeting agenda when the Winona Post went to print on Tuesday evening.
The agenda simply reads "The board is requested to approve the attached separation agreement," though no separation agreement was included in the public copy of Thursday's agenda. Immediately following, the board will be asked to appoint an interim — or temporary — superintendent. The board is also expected to vote on a superintendent search firm for the purpose of guiding the district in hiring a permanent replacement for Stephen West, who has served as the district's superintendent since 2014. There is also no information included in the agenda on the superintendent search firm vote.
The three-vote series on Thursday comes on the tails of the Winona Post investigative reporting in its December 18 edition, which highlighted that West — who had earlier boasted a doctoral degree from Saint Mary's University awarded in 2009 — did not, in fact, hold such a title. Additionally, the Post story covered a local university's accusation: that West largely plagiarized his doctoral thesis, with nearly 70 percent of the 107-page dissertation nearly identical to that of a 2007 thesis written by Dennis Leroy Humphrey from the University of Georgia.
West declined to comment for the story, though WAPS Board Chair Ben Baratto issued the following statement: "If the new allegations are true, they are serious and troubling. I will make no further comment until I speak with the superintendent."
When the Winona Post's December 18 was published, West had already submitted his resignation as superintendent on November 19, but pledged to finish the school year as top administrator for District 861.
The board already approved West's resignation, so it is unclear what the "separation agreement" included on Thursday's agenda entails. The blank agenda item does not even list which district employee the missing agreement pertains to, though board member Jay Kohner told the Post that the item had to do with West's employment with the district.
To read the December 18 story, search "Mr. West does not hold a Dr. degree from [SMU]."
Keep reading the Winona Post for more on this story.