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Superintendent on leave files lawsuit against Charles City School District directors

By Bob Steenson,

The superintendent of the Charles City School District, who was placed on administrative leave two months ago, has filed a lawsuit against each of the district’s five Board of Education directors, seeking damages for intentional harm she alleges was done to her and her reputation.

Superintendent on leave files lawsuit against Charles City School District directors
Dr. Anne Lundquist

Dr. Anne Lundquist filed the action in Floyd County District Court, saying that the directors’ actions on April 19 resulted in intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, invasion of privacy, breach of her contract, and were against public policy. The petition asks for a jury trial.

Named in the suit are School Board members Dr. David Schrodt, Dara Jaeger, Kathryn Fox, Bruce Koebrick and Josh Mack.

Lundquist does not seek a specific damage amount, but asks that the court award actual damages and punitive damages “in a fair and reasonable sum,” plus costs.

Lundquist, contacted by the Press, said she could not comment on the lawsuit, but said, “I was shocked by the school board’s actions toward me in late April. I have done nothing wrong. This situation has been devastating, for me, and for my family.”

The lawsuit was initially filed against the Charles City School District and the five directors. It was later amended to list only the five directors.

“My issue is with the School Board and not the district,” Lundquist told the Press.

“I am pleased with the progress our district has made in the past two years, both fiscally and academically, thanks to the good work of many staff members,” she said.

Superintendent on leave files lawsuit against Charles City School District directors
Dr. David Schrodt MD

Dr. Schrodt, the president of the School Board, said the board members would hold a meeting on Friday afternoon, June 21, with the school district’s attorney to discuss the lawsuit. He said the portion of the meeting for that discussion would be closed to the public.

“I do not have any comments or statement until we have had our board meeting,” he said.

In the lawsuit, Lundquist said that on April 18 she used a school district copy machine “to copy some private evaluation comments she had written concerning some individual employees in the district who were subject to her direction and control.”

“A copy of a portion of those notes was left on the copy machine. Those private notes were found and provided by someone to Dr. David Schrodt,” the suit says.

“Dr. David Schrodt, ignoring the private nature of the written evaluation comments, then contacted the other members of the board in violation of the Open Meetings Law, Chapter 21, of the Iowa Code, and secured an agreement to place Plaintiff (Lundquist) on administrative leave. That action was done at 12:30 p.m. on April 19, 2024,” it says.

“Then at 6:00 p.m on April 19, 2024 Dr. David Schrodt sent a notice to district employees that Anne Lundquist had been placed on administrative leave pending investigation. Further, Dr. Schrodt indicated that the investigation involved an issue as to whether the behavior of Anne Lundquist raised questions regarding her fitness for duty and ability to serve as an employee of the district,” the suit says.

“That action by the board president and board was then published throughout Iowa by media without affording Plaintiff an opportunity to explain the mistakes that the president of the board was making in this matter,” the suit says.

The Charles City Press reported the incident in an article published online on April 21, and in print on April 23. In that article, Lundquist said she was surprised by Schrodt’s action, but had been advised by her attorney to not comment further.

At that time, Schrodt told the Press that the matter was not criminal in nature, involved an allegation that had been made by a current district employee or employees, and when he learned of the matter, “I felt it should not be ignored.”

Lundquist’s lawsuit says that the action of the School Board “tarnished her 35 year reputation as an employee in education and has embarrassed her in her home community where she moved to retire.”

The suit says, “a punitive damage award should be entered due to these actions being reckless and without regard for the impact and were done with malice.”

The suit says that Lundquist was acting within her role as CEO of the school district in making private notations regarding employees.

“Having private notations about employees is a totally proper and legal act by a superintendent and is part of her job description,” it says.

“Plaintiff has an expectation of privacy for her personal notes and opinions which she has prepared in her line of duty until she chooses to disclose these in the ordinary course of business. This right of privacy was invaded and destroyed by the actions of Defendants,” the lawsuit alleges.

It also says that Lundquist’s contract with the school district provides that the directors shall give her opportunities “to discuss her performance and personal records at reasonable times,” and she was denied that opportunity, breaching her contract.

In the section of the lawsuit alleging the board acted against public policy, it says, “Defendants publicly sanctioned Plaintiff based on having private notes about employees for whom she was evaluating. These notes were about employees under her authority. Public policy recognizes her right and authority to evaluate public employees under her authority. Defendants publically sanctioning Plaintiff for these private notes is against public policy.”

It said that Lundquist, “as the person responsible for the performance of all employees has an obligation to maintain her records and notes as superintendent. This action to publically sanction Plaintiff was without reason and was cause of significant damage to Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s long term reputation in education has been damaged by Defendants.”

Lundquist’s current contract with the district expires on June 30. She has been on paid administrative leave since Schrodt made his announcement on April 19.

Lundquist had come out of retirement in the spring of 2022 to act as interim superintendent while the Charles City School Board looked for a replacement for the previous superintendent, who had taken a job in another district. In November 2022 the School Board removed the “interim” from Lundquist’s title, giving her the position.

Lundquist had announced in February this year her intention to retire as superintendent at the end of this school year. On May 3 the School Board approved a contract with Dr. Brian Burnight as the new superintendent beginning June 3.

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