District to pay $91,290 salary to high school chief despite his resignation
Cedar Grove-Belgium High School Principal Larry Theiss abruptly left his job Tuesday, Oct. 15, and science teacher Josh Ketterhagen has been named interim principal.
In an agreement that was unanimously approved by the School Board in closed session on Oct. 9, Theiss will be paid for the remainder of the school year. His salary is $91,290.
In his letter of resignation dated Oct. 15, which was expected to be accepted by the School Board on Oct. 30, Theiss said he is taking a sabbatical for the remainder of the year to pursue his superintendent’s and curriculum and instruction licenses.
“At the end of my course of studies, I hope to obtain a position in central Wisconsin which is closer to my family and will be resigning from my position at Cedar Grove-Belgium at the end of my contract,” Theiss stated in his letter.
Students were told the next morning that Theiss is taking a sabbatical to pursue his schooling and parents were sent copies of his resignation letter, Shaw said Monday.
Although it’s highly unusual for an administrator to take a leave with pay six weeks into the school year, Shaw said, there was no incident that prompted the action.
“He did nothing heinous, nothing wrong and didn’t hurt any kids,” Shaw said. “He’s spotless in that regard. Honestly, we felt that this would be a good time for him to go to school.
“I wish I had taken the time off (to get his superintendent’s licence) rather than doing it while I was working. It was hard on the family.”
Shaw said he talked with Theiss about his future and concerns about his leadership voiced by some teachers.
“Larry and I sat down and talked through the whole thing,” Shaw said. “He is very bright. He got some things done here that wouldn’t have gotten done without him. He moved the staff forward on curriculum. He’s a good guy and had to do a tough task.”
Board President Chad Hoopman said Theiss had to be notified by Jan. 1 if his contract was not going to be renewed otherwise it rolls over for another year.
“We have a contract with him until June 30 and we have to honor that,” Hoopman said. “Being a principal is a difficult job. I equate it to sitting on a three-legged stool. You have to be able to manage the people, the curriculum and the money. If you’re missing one leg, you’re going to fall over.
“I can’t go into personnel issues discussed in closed session, but I can say there is no smoking gun, no fraud, nothing of that magnitude.”
Hoopman said he is happy Ketterhagen accepted the board’s offer to be interim principal.
Ketterhagen, whose five sons are all in school this year, has been in the district for 16 years and has his administrator’s license. His wife Sally is a guidance counselor at the elementary school.
“We asked Josh two years ago when we had two principal openings if he was interested, but he said he wasn’t ready yet,” Shaw said. “This will give him a chance to see if it’s what he wants to do. Some people love it and some don’t.”
A long-term substitute will be hired for Ketterhagen, who teaches biology, advanced biology and anatomy. He is also the junior varsity boys’ basketball coach, a job he will keep.
Shaw has been helping with the principal’s duties along with the office staff, athletic director Brad Mayer and guidance counselor Jessica Luecke, Ketterhagen said.
“It’s going to be pretty difficult doing two jobs for a while,” he said. “I think our district is in need at the moment, and I decided to step up. I’ve gotten full support from the staff and I’m excited about it. I’m trying to make this year as best as possible given the situation for the students and staff.”
Theiss was hired July 1, 2011, to succeed John Hocking, who retired. He was principal of Newman Catholic High School in Wausau before coming to the district. He has a master’s degree in educational leadership and bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Marian University in Fond du Lac.
Theiss could not be reached for comment.