• Audio: Des Moines school board meeting.
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Newly released minutes from a closed-door meeting of the Des Moines school board in 2012 reveal that board officials coached each other on how to respond to questions about the resignation of former Superintendent Nancy Sebring.
Her abrupt resignation came weeks before a scandal broke involving sexually explicit emails sent by the would-be Omaha superintendent.
The minutes and audio recordings were released this week as part of a settlement between the Des Moines school board and an ex-board member who sued the board, alleging members improperly entered into closed session May 10, 2012, to discuss Sebring's abrupt resignation from the Des Moines school district.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which represented former board member Graham Gillette in his lawsuit against the board, a judge had already ruled that portions of the board's discussion in the meeting "did not directly relate to the stated reason for going into closed session."
Sebring was a respected educator in the Des Moines schools when she was tapped in April 2012 to replace retiring Superintendent John Mackiel as Omaha Public Schools' next superintendent.
Several weeks later, she resigned seven weeks early from her job as Des Moines superintendent, explaining she needed more time to prepare for her move and career transition to Omaha.
It was later learned those "personal reasons" were a ruse: Sebring actually resigned after Des Moines school officials confronted her about racy emails exchanged between the superintendent and her married lover. A World-Herald records request for Sebring's emails unearthed the sexually explicit missives and the Des Moines Register later obtained them. Both papers subsequently published excerpts of the emails, and Sebring resigned from the Omaha superintendent job the next day.
Sebring's early exit from Des Moines was announced after the lengthy closed school board meeting on May 10. In the meeting, board members discussed how to answer questions about Sebring's resignation.
Board member Dick Murphy asked whether he could respond that Sebring resigned, it was a personnel issue and could involve pending litigation.
Other board members said no – simply state that Sebring had resigned and that an interim superintendent had been appointed.
"To the extent that people ask you questions, etc, you know, you get hit up in the grocery store, you know, I think it's just easy to go to, you know what, she wants some additional time to prepare herself and she realized she wasn't giving herself any time to think before she transitioned from one to the other," School Board President Teree Caldwell-Johnson told the board.
Sebring and Caldwell-Johnson, who had earlier told the board she needed to know they were in "lock-step" with her if she was going to lead the board, told reporters after the meeting that Sebring resigned to give herself more time for family responsibilities before the move to Omaha.