Mystery surrounds Gibault principal exit

Stephen Kidd

The fallout of Gibault Catholic High School Principal Stephen Kidd’s departure remains murky following a school board meeting Monday night, where members of the Gibault community were given a forum to express concerns.

In last week’s Republic-Times, it was reported that Kidd had been present for the first full day of classes Aug. 18, but left later that morning for a meeting at the Diocese of Belleville, which serves as the administrative arm of local Catholic schools. 

A letter later released by the Diocese explained that Kidd had resigned from his position and Gibault Vice Principal/Athletic Director Jim Montgomery would serve as interim building administrator.

Kidd’s resignation followed the departure of Gibault PE/health instructor Jim Thompson, though it remains unclear if that was connected to Kidd.

This past Monday, another letter from Diocese of Belleville Superintendent of Schools Jonathon Birdsong expressed the importance of individuals’ privacy as well as the fact he and other members of the Diocese would be assisting at Gibault in the “coming days/weeks to support everyone in whatever capacities are needed.”

The letter also explained that sports PE classes at the school would be covered by longtime basketball coach Dennis Rueter while full-time substitute teacher Susie Hayden would handle regular PE classes. Gibault Director of Marketing Elizabeth Hess – who has a marketing degree – will handle the marketing classes and Susan Mackin will take care of health classes, per the Diocese letter.

This letter preceded a Monday evening school board meeting which saw a number of Gibault parents and a faculty member voice concerns about the situation.

At the meeting, Gibault School Board President Nathan Higgerson expressed his appreciation of the attendance, also making clear that the meeting was not intended as an open dialogue, rather that concerns would be heard and taken into account when the board went into private session.

“It’s important for us as a board to be able to take all these things into consideration, and we can hear what you guys have to say,” Higgerson said.

He also said the board was not responsible for Kidd’s departure, nor was it privy to information beyond what parents had also heard.

“I also want you to know that I and the school board were given no more details and no more information than what was shared with you,” Higgerson said. “I and the rest of the school board are simply volunteers serving on this advisory board.”

First to speak at the meeting was Chris Toenjes, who expressed her frustration at the lack of communication from the school and Diocese, saying the two emails sent to parents only led to more confusion.

Toenjes also said she had a problem with the administration of the school being overseen by Montgomery, who is non-Catholic.

She closed her three-minute speaking time by asking the board to what extent rumors in the community about Kidd and Thompson are true.

“We have all heard the rumors,” Toenjes said. “I’m curious, were our students in any danger? Has law enforcement been involved? Mr. Kidd’s been part of this Diocese for 20 years and I’m curious if you’re aware of any other wrongdoings.”

Next to speak was new Gibault parent July Maul, who emphasized the impact losing a principal could have on the school.

She added that Kidd’s positive presence and relationships with students were a big part of her decision to send her child to Gibault, and she is currently debating whether or not to stay at the school.

“Creating a situation where you don’t have a principal on the first day of school was a really irresponsible thing to do, and I find it hard to believe that Mr. Kidd did anything that warranted that,” Maul said.

New Gibault parents Kenneth Mohr and Jeanne Schulte-Mohr spoke together, agreeing with other speakers about the mishandling of this situation and also discussing the fact they are reconsidering having their child attend the school.

“The leadership of Mr. Kidd is one of the reasons why we chose Gibault Catholic High School,” Mohr said. “Now I wonder and worry if a St. Louis Catholic high school would have been a better choice.”

Former Gibault parent Crystal Schultz spoke next. She also emphasized Kidd’s relationships with students, particularly with her son, who spent much of his senior year sick but was given a great deal of assurance and help by Kidd.

“Mr. Kidd was a principal that was approachable,” Schultz said. “He knew his students. He got to know the parents of his students.”

Schultz finished by saying the handling of this situation “is not very Christian at all” and that Kidd should be at Gibault because of his presence as a principal.

Rueter was the last to speak to the board. He asked whether or not the school was on the hook for the salaries of Kidd and Thompson for the remainder of this school year.

Rueter also expressed concerns about having a respected Catholic principal to help the school recover from the rough start to the year. He suggested that former Immaculate Conception School Principal Mike Kish would be a good candidate, though he is perhaps not the long-term solution for the school.

“I think the principal that we could get that would alleviate a lot of the problems or some of the problems is Mike Kish,” Rueter said. “If we haven’t talked to Mike Kish, that might be a good place to start.”

Following the speakers, the board entered private session to further discuss the matter.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Monsignor John Myler – a spokesperson for the Diocese – sent an email to the Republic-Times to express the Diocese’s goals.

“We are committed to finding the best path forward for Gibault Catholic High School after the recent departure of the principal, and we believe the future is bright,” Myler wrote. “What matters most today is that the truly important work of educating our students is going forward and going strong. 

“Clearly it’s a challenging moment, but the faculty and staff at Gibault are up to the challenge and the Diocese and our Gibault families will be supporting them throughout.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web