Background at issue in hiring of Ely principal

K. Vandervort

ELY – Ely School Board Chair Ray Marsnik defended the district’s new grades 6-12 principal in the wake of a hiring decision that was far from unanimous. The school board split along gender lines in voting to hire Dan Bettin after a background check brought to light an instance of alleged maltreatment against a student during his tenure as principal at Floodwood.

In comments this week, Board Director Ray Marsnik defended the process used in investigating all aspects of Bettin’s character.

“The (Floodwood) school district and law enforcement investigated the incident (involving Bettin and a student) and they found no criminal wrongdoing. The school’s superintendent at the time viewed the video and indicated, in his opinion, that there was no maltreatment of the child.”

Marsnik said the candidate was cleared of any maltreatment charges. “The ethics committee of the board of administrators reviewed all material related to the complaint and in a letter dated Feb. 28, 2012, indicated it would not recommend any disciplinary action” related to Bettin’s licensure. Local police also investigated the incident and filed no charges, Marsnik noted, although he acknowledged that Bettin was disciplined for the incident.

After school board members reviewed a background check on the candidate, provided by legal counsel Kelly Klun at a special board meeting, board member Amy Richter made a motion to not hire Bettin. Kathy Udovich supported the motion. The motion failed 3-2, with Marsnik, Paul Pengal and Scott Kellerman voting no.

Pengal then made a motion to hire Bettin and Kellerman offered his support.

In the discussion that followed, Richter said she was disappointed and concerned that the school district would bring in a principal when “the Minnesota Department of Education stated there was a preponderance of evidence concerning Bettin and corporal punishment against a student.”

Udovich said, “Some people might take their kids elsewhere and as a result, we will lose more money.”

She asked if the principal was in charge of special education in the school. Superintendent Alexis Leitgeb said yes, but under the direction of the superintendent. “There might be a bias or feeling against that group of students,” Udovich said, referring to Bettin.

Richter said, “I am a mom of two boys. One time is too many. I feel I represent many constituents that feel the same way.”

Discussion briefly touched on the hiring process. “To say the board shouldn’t have a say in hiring administrators is simply not true,” Marsnik said.

The motion to hire Bettin passed on a 3-2 vote, with Marsnik, Kellerman and Pengal voting in favor. The board then passed a motion on a 4-1 vote to pay Bettin $78,000 per year for the 6-12 principal position. Richter voted against.

Marsnik said he felt the incident involving Bettin was a one-time mistake and should not disqualify him for the Ely position. “You can look around and find people in favor of or against anyone. I looked into the whole picture and I am happy with the answers I received. I do not condone that type of behavior. We all make mistakes. I talked to many people about him. It is not a pattern. It was a one-time incident. There are lots of rumors going around that are just not factual.”


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