Former Board member wants an apology from Board president over incident at school

The turmoil continues in the West Platte School District even as the Board of Education seeks an interim superintendent to replace Dr. Jerrod Wheeler. 

At a special meeting Monday evening, held primarily to address the building principals’ requests to implement a reading intervention program and to approve critical maintenance projects, a former Board member spoke out against his peers. Aaron Johnson said at last week’s meeting Board President John Collier made public accusations about him and his wife. During that meeting, Collier said he had called Weston police to protect school property while dealing with a personnel issue, but did not name any names. Said personnel issue was Wheeler cleaning out his office and police were dispatched during the incident but no arrests were made and no formal report taken. “On Friday, April 18, my wife and I took my pickup to the administrative office so that Dr. Wheeler could use it to move personal items out of his office,” Johnson said. Johnson said his wife told Collier their child’s classmates believed Wheeler had fired several teachers and that it was his job as president to ensure the public knew the truth. “I went inside to tell Dr. Wheeler we were leaving and the keys were in my pickup,” Johnson said. “Mr. Collier was standing near the doorway to Dr. Wheeler’s office and thus was between me and Dr. Wheeler. I told Mr. Collier that his actions were all about him. He said, ‘No, it’s not.’ I said, ‘It’s been about you for a long time; it’s all about you getting your reputation back in this community.’” Johnson said Collier told him he didn’t need to take this and was going to call the police, at which point he left. “That was the extent of the incident,” Johnson said. “As Mr. Collier knows, there was no yelling, no cussing, no threats and no harassment.” He then asked Collier for a public apology – a request which does run counter to the Board policy of offering no response to statements from the public during meetings. Collier thanked Johnson for his input but had no other comment at the time. Johnson went on to criticize Collier’s leadership and said “the district has lurched from one controversy to another under your leadership.” He said patrons agreed there was a problem in leadership at the district, but blame was being placed with the wrong person. He said Collier avoided responsibility for his actions as Board president by blaming others to deflect attention from his lack of leadership. “After watching your behavior over the past three years, I have no confidence in your ability to lead this district,” Johnson said. While Collier had no response during the meeting, he later denied any wrongdoing. “You should never have to apologize for doing the right thing or telling the truth,” Collier told The Citizen in response to Johnson’s comments. “There will be no further comment on this situation because I don’t want it to be a distraction to the education of our students.” The exchange was a small portion of the brief meeting, where Collier also reported that the district had so far received 16 applications for the interim superintendent’s position. The advertisements will run until May 6, at which time the Board has scheduled a special meeting to review applications in executive session. “It’s very encouraging we’ve received that many,” Collier said. “In my view it’s a very good sign of good things to come.” The official status of Wheeler’s employment at West Platte is still up in the air as it was last week. Collier said the district was waiting to hear back from Wheeler’s attorney in regards to any kind of severance agreement. Wheeler confirmed an agreement was still pending and had no further comment. Also at the meeting, the Board approved the purchase of a reading intervention program for both the high school and elementary school.