- By Parker Perry Staff Writer
A former Northwestern treasurer who worked in the district for 27 years before retiring last fall says he supports the school’s superintendent.
Superintendent Jesse Steiner was informed on Nov. 26 that he shouldn’t come to work because an investigation was being launched by the Northwestern Board of Education into allegations of unprofessional conduct, according to former school board President Donna Myers.
David Bollheimer, who retired at the end of 2017 and had previously declined to comment, said in an email to the Springfield News-Sun that he and Steiner worked together closely and Steiner acted professionally during that time.
“Many people say, ‘It is all about the kids,’” Bollheimer said. “I saw Mr. Steiner’s work as superintendent show that he really does put the kids first.”
Steiner was put on paid leave on Dec. 21. The investigation allegedly found Steiner violated district policy for the way he interacted with employees, including allegedly raising his voice when addressing staff and not treating them with respect, according to a Jan. 24 letter from the board to Steiner.
He was allowed to come to back to work on Feb. 1. Steiner declined to comment on Monday.
The investigation cost taxpayers more than $31,000 and Steiner was paid about $25,000 while on leave, according to public records obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.
Northwestern School Board President Andy Gundolf didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.
Bollheimer said he often saw Steiner’s interactions with district employees.
“I worked closely with Mr. Steiner and I did not observe these actions to the extent that I have read about or as I was asked about in the investigation,” Bollheimer said.
Steiner wasn’t perfect, Bollheimer said, but neither was any other superintendent he has worked with. He handled differences with the former treasurer like an adult, Bollheimer said.
“We had calm, professional discussions,” Bollheimer said. “We both had the same goal of doing what is best for the students and the district. Nearly every time we came to a conclusion that we presented publicly. In the rare occasions where our opinions were strong enough to hold onto, we presented both to the board (usually in public session). The board made a decision and we moved on.”
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When Steiner was hired into the district, Bollheimer said he implemented changes that some staff members didn’t like. He also is a superintendent that lets employees know if they aren’t doing their job, Bollheimer said.
“At times, a leader is required to hold people accountable,” Bollheimer said “Most people accept this as constructive criticism and learn from the discussion. Some people take the comments personally and feel they are being treated poorly.”
Bollheimer saw some of these meetings, he said.
“In every instance I witnessed, Mr. Steiner did not raise his voice,” Bollheimer said. “It is never comfortable hearing that you could have or should have done something better, but I always witnessed Mr. Steiner doing this in a way where the employee could discuss the matter.”