After a three-year legal battle ended with a district court judge threatening to put Durant school board members in jail if they didn’t restore Monica Rouse as principal of the high school, Rouse enjoyed her first day back in her old office Tuesday.
She couldn’t comment on the experience because Superintendent Duane Bennett has directed Rouse and other faculty and staff not to talk to the media.
Her attorney, Cathy Cartee of Davenport, said she heard from Rouse, who said the day was “productive.”
“She was laughing and smiling,” Cartee said. “She was happy. She loves education, and no one knows education like Monica.”
Rouse was supposed to get a master key to the entire Durant High School facility on Tuesday, Cartee said. She had been denied one for several months.
The school board decided Monday night to fully restore Rouse as principal. The board also decided that high school co-principal Tony Neumann would be moved to jointly administer the district’s K-8 program with Rebecca Stineman.
Until Tuesday, Neumann occupied the high school principal’s office while Rouse worked out of an empty storage room in the grade school wing.
Neumann moved into an office in the grade school wing Tuesday, Cartee said.
Residents who stood outside the superintendent’s office during Monday night’s board meeting were hopeful the dispute could be over.
“It’s a bad thing what the people in this community are going through,” Durant resident Wayne Lincoln said. “That’s what we’re hearing when we leave town. They ask, ‘What’s wrong with your school?’”
Kristy Hansen said she could not avoid the criticism when she traveled outside Durant.
“Nothing will surprise us anymore,” she said.
Rouse was principal when Hansen’s middle son attended the high school, she said. When she first heard accusations against Rouse three years ago, she said she went to her office and asked her about them.
After talking to Rouse and researching the accusations, Hansen said she found all of them to be baseless.
An administrative law judge and a district court judge also found untrue accusations that included tampering with student records.
Efforts to reach former Superintendent Duane Bark for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Bark escorted Rouse off school grounds Sept. 17, 2009, which began her legal battle with the school board.
He resigned in February 2011 and now leads the Markesan District Schools in Wisconsin.
Rouse holds no grudges against faculty and staff, even those who were asked to fill out a survey about her earlier this year before Cartee filed a subpoena asking them to stop, Cartee said. There are conflicting stories over who requested the surveys, Cartee added.
“She told staff today they will work through all of this,” Cartee said. “She wants to get on with the teaching of the kids.”