DURANT, Iowa — Monica Rouse will be fully restored as the sole principal of Durant High School, the school board decided Monday night in a session that was closed to the public.
High school co-principal Tony Neumann has agreed to give up his position in order to jointly administer the district’s K-8 program with Rebecca Stineman, the board said.
Board members did not comment after Monday’s meeting. Instead, Rand Wonio of the Davenport law firm of Lane & Waterman, which represents the school board, read a statement from the board to media representatives waiting outside the superintendent’s office.
“The board has only acted in what it considered the best interests of the students, faculty and staff,” the statement read.
Wonio and Superintendent Duane Bennett declined to comment on the case.
The board’s statement did not say when Rouse will be reinstated. But Rouse’s attorney, Cathy Cartee, said she received an email earlier Monday from Wonio saying Rouse will move into the principal’s office today.
“Maybe now they finally get it,” Cartee said of Monday night’s decision.
Cartee wasn’t ready to celebrate, yet, she said. “In view of the history of this board, we will take their word at face value. However, we cannot feel confident, in view of the fact that they have blatantly ignored each and every court order as it was issued.”
Bennett has directed Rouse and other faculty and staff not to talk to the media.
The three-year legal battle began when Rouse was escorted off school grounds Sept. 17, 2009, by then-Superintendent Duane Bark. The board voted to fire Rouse in March 2010, claiming several counts of wrongdoing.
She appealed her termination to the Iowa Supreme Court and won earlier this year, returning to work April 23. Meanwhile, Neumann was hired as high school principal in 2011 while the school board was appealing a district court’s decision to reinstate Rouse.
The high school of 250 students has had two principals for several months. The combined annual salaries of the two principals cost the district $155,000.
But while Neumann worked in the principal’s office, Rouse has been working out of an empty storage room. She has been given significantly fewer duties and little to no access to student records, to her old computer or to the entire high school facility, according to a contempt of court order she filed in the spring.
On Friday, Cedar County District Court Judge Mark Smith ruled that the school board violated a court order, and he gave board members the following ultimatum: Return Rouse to full principal or go to jail. Smith also ordered the board and the school district pay $12,000 in attorney fees.
Rouse has a libel lawsuit still pending against the school board and seeks damages of an undetermined value. Cartee said news releases issued by the school board have contained false statements about Rouse and have made it impossible for her to get hired in other school districts.