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Wrenshall board fires tech director

Following a closed meeting Wednesday that lasted three hours, the Wrenshall school board fired the school’s information technology director, Jaime Hopp, the Pine Knot News learned Thursday.

Hopp had been the subject of a personnel investigation which began earlier this summer. The tech director was alleged to have profanely alluded to “killing” the district superintendent while in the staff lounge in June. Another district employee overheard the comment, which superintendent Kim Belcastro later reported to Carlton County authorities.

Following its meeting Wednesday, the board voted 4-1 after its closed meeting in favor of disciplinary action against an unnamed employee with no details of the discipline included. However, the next day Wrenshall school board chair Misty Bergman shared a copy of Hopp’s notice of termination with the Pine Knot News, because of the “extensive reporting and public interest in this matter,” she said.

Because the disciplinary action was now final, she said the letter was considered public data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

The letter said Hopp’s employment was terminated, effective immediately.

While she could have been discharged without cause as an at-will employee, Bergman wrote that the board gave consideration to the results of the investigation of allegations against her, and allegations she made against another employee.

The letter cited the basis for termination as follows:

“On May 13, 2022, you entered the teacher’s lounge and made a statement to a teacher to the effect of ‘if there was anyone in this world that I could f***ing kill, it would be that f***ing super, I cannot stand her.’

“The District’s investigation into allegations against you revealed there have been other incidents of you cursing and yelling in the workplace,” the letter continued, “including reports that you have referred to other employees as ‘f***ing morons’ and ‘f***king idiots.’ ”

In closing, the letter stated that such conduct was unacceptable.

“Unfortunately, your conduct has undermined your ability to work with others to the point that the School Board has determined you can no longer effectively continue in your position,” the letter said.

The vote to terminate was 4-1, with board member Jack Eudy voting against termination and board member Cindy Bourn abstaining. Bourn did not explain her abstention Wednesday night. Board chair Misty Bergman and board member Debra Washenesky both said during their votes in favor of disciplinary action that they did so with “a heavy heart.”

The investigation continues, however. Also, following the closed meeting Wednesday, board members voted unanimously to spend $3,000 more to “proceed with completing an investigation report addressing issues discussed in special session.”

The added money is beyond a $10,000 cap the board first approved for the investigation.

Bergman said she couldn’t share details of the remaining allegations under investigation because those are not public data.

“Investigator Isaac Kaufman completed a preliminary report addressing some, but not all of the allegations under review,” she told the Pine Knot.

Hopp had been on leave throughout the investigation, a measure that has cost the district unknown additional dollars in filling her duties with both contractors and other school personnel.

For more on Wednesday's meeting, read this Pine Knot News story:


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