Cerro Gordo school board says librarian's abrupt ouster not a cost cut


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CERRO GORDO — The Cerro Gordo school district will soon be constructing a new library as part of an $8 million building project.

Who will run it remains a mystery following the dismissal of the district's full-time librarian, which took many in town — including the suddenly-out-of-work Amy Williams — by surprise.

"It was a complete shock," said Williams, who learned she would not be renewed last Friday, three days before school board members made it official at a special meeting. She was allowed to stay in her job until the end of the school year.

"All my reviews have been good. I got along with everyone. I was involved in committees and meetings, helped get the referendum passed," said Williams, who'd been employed by Cerro Gordo for three years. Prior to that, she'd been a library aide for four years before going back to school to earn her master's in library science.

"They had me in the planning for the new library and involved with architects in the fall."

District voters approved a referendum last spring to fund facilities improvements, including a connector addition between the high school and current gym/band building that will include STEAM labs, a secondary gym, district offices and a library.

A crowd of about 30 showed up at this week's school board meeting, a third of whom supported Williams during public comments. Besides approval of bills, "adoption of a resolution authorizing non-reemployment of a full time, non-tenured teacher not in their last year of probationary service" was the only action item on the agenda, and was OK'd after an executive session.

When asked for the reason behind the dismissal, school board President Todd Henricks responded, "This is strictly a personnel issue for a non-tenured faculty member, and that's all there is to it."

Williams said she was not given a reason for the action. When asked why that was the case, Henricks added, "If she needs an answer, she needs to talk to her administrators."

Williams said one of those administrators — Cerro Gordo Elementary Principal Jodi Neaveill — told the librarian verbally she would be recommending re-employment. Williams said Neaveill was not present when she was informed by district Superintendent Brett Robinson that she wouldn't have a job beyond this school year.

The move, which left Williams "just as stumped as anyone else," does not appear to be related to cost-cutting, as the district advertised for her replacement — plus a part-time librarian/media specialist — the day after the special meeting.

Henricks confirmed that "money was not a consideration in this decision."

Since she is not tenured, Williams said she has little recourse.

"The (teacher's) union has pretty much done all they can do," Williams said. "Legally, the school has done nothing wrong. They are within their rights."

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.