Wauwatosa school administrator resigns after investigation

The assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for the Wauwatosa School District will step down. An internal investigation sparked by reports from FOX6 concludes that Kristin Bowers violated policy with her involvement in the district contract and payments to her husband’s employer.

Bowers’ resignation is on Monday night’s staff consent agenda for school board approval. The agenda does not indicate whether Bowers has a resignation agreement with the district that includes payment.

In a phone call, Superintendent Demond Means declined to answer questions about whether the district had a resignation agreement with Bowers.

In her first statement about it, in the form of a letter the school district sent with its investigation report, Bowers said she “strove to be a model of professionalism and integrity. and disagreed with the conclusion, but not the facts, of the report.

The report highlights details from public records that a FOX6 investigation uncovered, revealing Kristin Bowers’ involvement in the adoption and implementation of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) while the company compensated her husband. Brett Bowers started as a part-time AVID staff developer and eventually became a full-time senior assistant division manager.

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In 2019, the Wauwatosa School District received a legal notice saying that Kristin Bowers should stay out of AVID decision-making, specifically related to the program’s contract. But public records show that Bowers continued to offer his opinion on AVID decisions over the following months and years. She reviewed the AVID contract, telling the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services “it is necessary to purchase everything listed”. Bowers agreed to meet with AVID representatives about the district contract, approved an AVID expense of $22,950, called AVID expansion meetings, and worked behind the scenes on pitches selling a contract AVID over $170,000 over three years to the board and the public.

Wauwatosa School District

In the Wauwatosa investigation, Bowers said she approved AVID spending under then-Superintendent Phil Ertl, but later told him it made her “uncomfortable”.

The report does not address Bowers’ email to the District Business Office stating that it was necessary to purchase everything listed in the AVID contract. The report says Bowers’ direct report, Nicole Marble, claimed there was “not much room to negotiate” the AVID contract.

The Wauwatosa School District would later admit that it violated its own policies by not seeking quotes and offers from other companies when exploring the AVID contract.

Wauwatosa also paid Brett Bowers directly for professional development consulting work. The district’s investigation says his consulting work was unrelated to AVID, but two former Wauwatosa employees told FOX6 that Brett Bowers mentioned AVID several times during his consulting presentations to staff.

Current and former Wauwatosa School District employees who did not want to be identified for fear of harming future job prospects tell FOX6 while some staffers were genuinely excited about AVID, those who were skeptical of the ability of the program to keep its promises felt like they couldn’t talk because of the Bowers’ relationship.

Wauwatosa’s investigative report, which took more than two months to produce, says the district interviewed four people: Kristin Bowers, former Superintendent Phil Ertl, Bowers’ current direct report, Nicole Marble, and her former direct report, Mark Carter.

The investigation also involved a review of district policy, a review of public records (which many FOX6 had already uncovered), the 2019 legal opinion about the Bowers’ relationship, a timeline from Kristin Bowers, and a letter from AVID about Brett Bowers. compensation.

Three other current and former employees who participated in the AVID talks told FOX6 they were aware of the situation and would have liked to participate in the district’s investigation, but no one approached them. The inquest report says an attorney for Buelow Vetter and current Superintendent Demond Means conducted the interview.

Public records show Means initially strategized with Bowers about his defense after FOX6 began asking questions in October, including a draft statement that misrepresented the contents of the 2019 legal opinion.

But after board members learned what FOX6 discovered, the school district put Bowers on paid leave, voted to make the legal opinion public, launched an investigation, and voted to end its relationship with AVID. after the current school year.

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In the Wauwatosa investigative report, Ertl and Kristin Bowers say they believed the potential for a conflict of interest was mitigated when Bowers informed Ertl that her husband had accepted full-time employment with AVID in 2019. The report does not state when or if Kristin Bowers informed her superiors of Brett Bowers’ previous part-time AVID work, or when Brett Bowers’ part-time AVID work began.

In his statement accompanying the report, Bowers says the district’s AVID investment and expansion was the result of the vision of then-superintendent Phil Ertl. Three current and former school district employees say Ertl seemed enthusiastic about AVID, but they also saw Bowers as a key driver.

Wauwatosa’s report insists that Brett Bowers received no additional direct compensation as a result of the school district’s contract with his employer, supported by a letter from AVID.

Wisconsin law prohibits “public officials” from using their office to benefit themselves, their immediate family, and organizations with which they are associated.

Wauwatosa School District policy prohibits activities that “conflict or raise a reasonable question of conflict” with school duties and responsibilities.

Wauwatosa police say they are investigating.

The report’s findings say Bowers violated the policy and the conflict of interest issue should have been reconsidered upon his promotion to assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, as it ‘seems highly unlikely’ that she could have recused herself from AVID decision-making.

The report also recommends ways to “consider appropriate action,” as well as a review of school district policies.

Martha K. Merrill