HomeJobsEast Marshall school board approves contract for controversial principal

East Marshall school board approves contract for controversial principal

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T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM — Mark Albertsen addresses the East Marshall Community School Board and attendees at the regular Monday meeting. Some people spoke against hiring Albertsen as the elementary principal after he resigned from the Union Community School District back in 2021.

GILMAN — The East Marshall School Board approved a contract for a controversial elementary principal hire. After a lengthy closed session during the regular Monday meeting, and hearing concerns, as well as support for the decision, Mark Albertsen became the newest East Marshall elementary principal.

More than 30 people attended the meeting, crowding into the small room. It was a chance for parents and staff to express their opinions on the district’s hiring decision.

Albertsen, who was principal at Union Community Middle School in Dysart, resigned in 2021 after a teacher was being investigated for exchanging inappropriate emails with a student. Some East Marshall parents strongly voiced their disapproval on social media after discovering his past.

Board President Andrea Terrones opened the meeting by assuring attendees the board members heard the information and public comments prior to the meeting. Knowing there would be a larger audience on Monday evening, she said it was decided the public comment period would be 30 minutes long to allow people to speak.

Albertsen was present at the East Marshall and addressed the concerns of parents. He said he accepted the position as elementary principal with great enthusiasm. Albertsen was glad community members care so much and he would be asking the same questions if the roles were switched. He wanted to address the concerns.

More than 30 people attend the East Marshall Community School Board meeting on Monday. Many of them were there for the board decision on the hiring of Mark Albertsen as the elementary principal.

Albertsen told the crowd and the board he had been in education for 25 years as a teacher, coach and principal, and he felt that it is a big part of who he is.

“Trust and building relationships is a critical component when working in education,” he said. “I will show up for you and earn your trust.”

Albertsen spent 17 years at Union as a principal of both the elementary and middle schools. He took a few years off from education after his resignation because he was upset and hurt. He said he never planned to leave Union.

“Here is what I can share with you,” Albertsen said. “I never had legal action taken against me or my license. I did my job. I will always protect the students and put them first. Here’s what I learned from the situation. Being vulnerable is hard and is earned with trust. Being vulnerable with all of you, sharing how this feels is incredibly difficult, but absolutely necessary. It’s incredibly important to take accountability in any situation. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. I ask you to get all the details before you make a decision. I have also learned the importance of gathering accurate data and following school policy and procedures. I did all of these and I promise to continue to follow these lessons at East Marshall.”

Lastly, he said he knows he is meant to work in education and be a servant leader. Ethical integrity is a core value of his, Albertsen said, along with clear transparency, communication and accountability. He would model those values daily, and hopes to get to know the community and earn their trust.

Christina Jung Malcom said she had three children in the East Marshall elementary school. She was told the top four candidates for the principal position were strong. Malcolm said the students deserve the best every day without adding the drama Albertsen would bring.

“I have heard from several people (that) Mr. Albertsen’s explanation was he was the scapegoat for issues at Union schools,” she said. “Someone that is a scapegoat does not resign willingly and is given a $25,000 payout.”

Malcolm added innocent people fight to clear their name from defamatory statements, but Albertsen did not. She urged the board to vote against his hiring. Blair Paxton told the board she will have two children attending the school within the next year, and also had concerns regarding Albertsen’s past behavior.

“If Mr. Albertsen is hired without further consideration, it would potentially harm our school district, and jeopardize the safety and well being of our children,” she said. “I urge the board to take immediate action to address the situation and consider other options for leadership at the school.”

Not everyone spoke against the hiring. Julie Lamer was there to speak in support of the district and was deeply saddened by the attacks made on Albertsen.

“I believe this is not a true reflection of the beliefs, values or integrity of the members of this district,” she said.

Lamer said while she was sad Cathy DeBondt was leaving the position, it was important to find another elementary principal. She believed, based on Albertsen’s interview and discussions with former coworkers of his, that he would be a great addition to East Marshall and was the right person to fill the vacancy.

Board member Elizabeth Crandon was emotional as she stood up from her chair to speak. The last two weeks were very hard, she said.

“I’ve never been so disappointed in the district and its patrons,” Crandon said, her voice breaking. “The negativity that has been created in this situation and for the gentleman who shows interest in working for our children. . . . I ask one thing of this district tonight. Please support whatever decision is made. Please don’t go out and badmouth our district, talk about negative things or call someone names. We are here for our kids, and our kids watch everything we do.”

After the public comment period, the board went into closed session to discuss the hiring of Albertsen. The board was in closed session for more than an hour before making the decision.

UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, the district released a statement addressing the hiring of Albertsen, who was recommended by the hiring committee as the best choice for the 2024-25 elementary school principal based upon his 25 years of education experience.

The statement addressed the board’s acknowledgment of the concerns expressed by the community.

“Throughout the process, Mr. Albertsen has been very transparent about his previous employment, and extensive due diligence was conducted to fully understand his background. It is worth noting that his license with the Board of Educational Examiners has always been and continues to be in good standing.

“We ask our community to give Mr. Albertsen the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership capabilities and his commitment to building a positive school culture that prioritizes student growth. We believe he will quickly earn the trust of our families, staff and community members.

“As always, the board aims to select the best possible candidates for key positions throughout our schools. We believe we have accomplished this goal with the hiring of Mr. Albertsen.”

——

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-751-6611 ext. 210 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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