Manawa School Board ends ban on felons
Softball coach’s contract renewed at special meeting
By Holly Neumann
The Manawa School Board acted on only two agenda items at its special meeting Tuesday, March 1.
The board voted 5-2 to rescind an earlier directive against hiring any a staff with felony conviction. It also approved a contract to hire Todd Zielke as head coach for the softball team.
At its Feb. 15 meeting, the board did not renew Zielke’s contract, although it approved all other spring sports’ contracts on the agenda.
“Penalizing someone for the second time was double jeopardy for me,” said Helene Pohl at the March 1 meeting. “Anyone who has been convicted has paid their due to society in one way or another. I really believe that a felony, although it is a serious mistake, needs to be assessed by the administration or the board. To have a blanket denial of someone’s right to serve students, particularly when the felony has nothing to do with children, is problematic for me.”
Russ Hollman agreed.
“Looking back at the decision, I would think that it really reduces our options if we have that policy in effect,” he said. “I think it ties our hands, for the possibility of hiring someone with a felony record, who may be an excellent person for one of our jobs available.”
Hollman added that if the district said they were not going to hire felons, they were automatically judging all felons as not acceptable.
Zielke was convicted of causing death by OWI on April 18, 1991.
He was 20 years old when his truck slammed into a motorcycle shortly before 3 a.m. on April 21, 1990, on State Highway 54 in New London. Martin Young was killed in the crash.
Joanne Johnson noted that she received many phone calls on the issue. She said 11 of the 12 people she spoke with believed that the district should not hire anyone with a felony record.
Charles Hebert said he received calls as well.
“What do you say when you are asked the question, do you guys really hire felons?” he asked. “People have said I cannot even believe this is a topic, that we should set our standards higher.”
Board President Scott Rice said he did not want to sit in judgment of people.
“The only place I have a problem is that I am uncomfortable making those judgments about people,” he said. “Saying that your past is better than this person’s, is a little difficult.”
The motion to rescind the ban on hiring felons passed with Bobbi Jo Pethke, Russ Johnson, Pohl, Rice and Hollman voting in favor, while Joanne Johnson and Charles Hebert voted against.