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Records reveal reasons for Cooper dismissal

On Jan. 16, the Superior school board voted unanimously to fire Cooper Elementary School principal Brett Brodeen.

According to minutes of the closed board session, provided in response to an open records request by the Telegram, Brodeen violated numerous district policies, including misuse of funds, inappropriate absences from work, and intimidating and bullying behaviors toward staff and students. In addition, equipment was missing or not in the appropriate location at Cooper, and Brodeen was found to be lacking in meeting the expectations of an administrator.

The decision to fire Brodeen was made, in part, by findings of an investigation by an independent examiner, Steven Olson. The attorney interviewed 73 staff members and conducted a 5½-hour investigation with Brodeen, who was hired as Cooper’s principal in 2008.

In a letter dated Feb. 28, addressed to school board members, Brodeen called the allegations false and claimed he was not provided an opportunity to respond to them formally.

"Stated simply, false claims were made about me, and I was fired," he wrote.

According to district legal counsel, Kyle Torvinen, Brodeen was allowed to respond during Olson’s examination on two separate occasions.

When contacted by the Telegram, Brodeen said he has challenged the school board’s decision to fire him.

Brodeen’s personnel file, provided through the open records request, revealed a history of concerns, as well as action by the district. He was placed on an improvement plan for the 2013-2014 school year to address his lack of planning and organization, specifically in regard to paperwork.

In 2013, Brodeen attended a five-day course, "Coaching Style of Leadership," with District Administrator Janna Stevens to focus on communication and transparency. The Cooper principal was later written up for failing to use appropriate communication expectations when making a decision on the school’s technology coach position.

According to the records provided, teacher concerns over Brodeen’s leadership, decision-making and effect on school climate continued to crop up through the fall of 2016.

"I felt the support I had given him on how to effectively collaborate with staff, structures for managing time, the course on Coaching Style of Leadership and an action plan to be responsive to staff concerns should have resulted in a change in his behavior," Stevens said. "I think it is clear from the frustration communicated by staff this fall and winter that my efforts were unsuccessful."

In December, Stevens recommended a full outside investigation by Olson on staff concerns at Cooper and an internal audit of spending at the school.

Brodeen was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 2, during Olson’s investigation. Aaron Liebertz, an assistant principal at Superior Middle School, was tapped to lead the school in his absence. According to Monday’s school board agenda, Liebertz will officially become the new Cooper Elementary School principal effective July 1.