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E. Dubuque superintendent placed on leave, board mum

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East Dubuque Schools Superintendent Greg Herbst was placed on administrative leave last week pending a performance hearing, not because he "embezzled funds or committed some illicit act," he said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Herbst was placed on paid leave for an unspecified period of time following a unanimous vote by East Dubuque School Board members during a special meeting July 1.

Herbst said he believes the move stemmed from his investigation into the "performance and effectiveness" of another school official and that "external collusive" relationships "unduly influenced" some board members. He declined to name the official.

Board President Shirley Horstman said Monday that the reason for placing Herbst on leave was confidential.

Horstman again declined to comment Tuesday on the reason. She also declined to answer his allegations that the move was motivated by his investigation of another school official or that external relationships impacted board members' votes.

"By law, we cannot comment," she said.

Other board members have deferred questions about the move to Horstman.

But if people don't know the story, they will fill it in themselves, Herbst said of his decision to release a statement.

"The entire experience is one I never ever would have foreseen," he told TH Media. "The fact that I find myself defending my 27-year reputation -- it's almost beyond my comprehension."

Jim Puls, who served 16 years on the East Dubuque School Board, said board members are not trying to hide anything. They legally cannot discuss the situation, he said.

But, he added, the situation is a "joke."

Citing a personal conversation with Herbst, Puls said the unspecified issue at the center of Herbst's performance hearing concerns an information leak from a prior meeting's closed session in which the board discussed the performance of another administrator in the district.

Herbst was approached by teachers within the district who had heard about a resolution proposed during that closed session, Puls said.

Board members also were aware of rumors, he said. Herbst addressed the staff prior to the end of the school year in order to stop those rumors, Puls said.

In doing so, he broke the confidentiality of the closed session, but Puls argues that infraction is not a terminable offense.

"He was trying to clean up the mess that someone else created," Puls said. "The information was not out for public release, but everyone and their brother knew."

People rallying to fight for Herbst's cause should know that he didn't do something terrible, Puls added.

"Good superintendents are hard to find," Puls said. "I find it extremely difficult to believe I could ever sit down and vote to put someone like Greg on leave for possible termination."

Puls declined to name the administrator at the center of the controversy or specify the rumors that surrounded the individual.

Herbst's decision to release a statement also followed the creation of a Facebook group -- East Dubuque Citizens for Greg Herbst -- that gained more than 1,000 followers in six hours Monday. It had more than 1,400 members Tuesday evening.

The page was created by Dave and Janie Sendt, who asked residents, parents and students to post testimonials about their interactions with Herbst.

"My family and I couldn't be more humbled by this experience," Herbst said of the outpouring of support.

Dave Sendt will host a community meeting at 7 p.m. today at the ballfield in Dunleith Park to coordinate a campaign to raise awareness about Herbst's situation and encourage residents to contact school board members.

Herbst intends to speak to his supporters to kick off the meeting, according to a post by Sendt on the page.

Katherine Kelly is serving as acting superintendent while Herbst is on leave.

Kelly handpicked Herbst as high school principal in one of the first hires of her seven-year stint as East Dubuque's superintendent.

In a Jan. 28, 2011, article in the East Dubuque Register, Kelly described Herbst as "more than ready" to step into the superintendent position. Kelly vacated the position in July 2011.

Kelly is also director of LEAP (Leadership Enrichment After-School Programs) for the Dubuque Community School District.

Horstman is director of student services for the Dubuque district. She is Kelly's direct supervisor.

Kelly did not return calls for comment Monday or Tuesday.


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