APPLETON – Appleton School Board Vice President Leah Olson resigned from her post on Monday, citing the need to spend more time with her family as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
At a virtual meeting set for noon Thursday, the six remaining school board members will officially launch the process of filling the vacancy.
The resignation comes amid growing family and community frustration with the Appleton Area School District’s decision to keep learning entirely online so far this school year.
In late September, a parent launched a recall petition against Olson and two fellow school board members — President Kay Eggert and member Jim Bowman.
The parent, Erik Hansen, argued the board members had “willfully neglected to act on behalf of families” and had shirked their duties to ensure the district “provides the best educational opportunities to maximize the achievement of our students.”
At the time, Olson did not directly address the recall petition, but told The Post-Crescent it’s an “honor” to serve the Appleton Area School District community.
“I will continue to do my best to represent our students and our families and our community during these very challenging times,” she said.
Since then, nearly 1,800 parents and students have joined a Facebook group called “AASD Parents Looking for Change,” where they’ve organized multiple rallies outside the district’s administrative office in favor of reopening schools.
Olson didn’t immediately reply to a phone call Tuesday asking for comments about her resignation.
In a statement provided by the district on Olson’s behalf, she did not address the recall effort or the ongoing criticism she and other board members have faced this year. Instead, she said the pandemic has forced her to evaluate her priorities and commitments.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve over the last three and a half years,” she wrote. “I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues on the board, the district leadership team, and all our staff in their continued efforts to support every student, every day.”
In a statement, Appleton schools Superintendent Judy Baseman said the district appreciates Olson’s work on the school board, and they “wish her well in her future endeavors.”
In a Tuesday interview, Eggert said the board respects Olson’s decision to resign, and they’ve “certainly appreciated Leah’s contribution to the board and the district.”
The person appointed, on a majority board vote, will serve the rest of Olson’s term, according to board policy. She would’ve been up for re-election in April.
Those interested in becoming a school board member must submit the following paperwork to the district office by 4 p.m. Dec. 18:
- A letter of interest, which includes the candidate’s name, residential address and phone number; reasons the candidate wants to serve on the board; qualifications and experience relevant to the position; items the person believes should be the board’s top priorities for improving student achievement; the candidate’s views on the board’s role and the administration’s role; and the person’s availability for board duties.
- A declaration of eligibility form.
Anyone with questions can contact Baseman’s office at 920-832-6126.