Whitnall to Address Lingering Concerns About Food Service Manager Arrest
The district will hold an open discussion about the arrest of food service manager James Heidke, and the timing of the communication the district delivered to parents.
Updated 3:30 p.m. March 15
Whitnall School District parents and residents with questions about the food service manager's arrest for using a computer to facilitate a sex crime—and the timing of district communication about it—can learn more at an informational session later this month.
The district will hold an informational session on March 25 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Whitnall High School auditorium, prior to a regularly scheduled School Board meeting, to discuss lingering concerns about James Heidke and how the district handled the news of his arrest.
Heidke, 55, was arrested after police say he tried to lure a 15-year-old “boy” he met online for sex. That “boy” was an undercover police officer.
Heidke was charged with using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, a felony, on Thursday, Feb. 28. Patch’s media partner WISN 12, and subsequently Greenfield Patch, reported on Heidke’s arrest Monday, March 4. In both reports, Heidke was initially erroneously referred to as a Whitnall School District administrator. Rather, he was an employee of A’viands, a company contracted to handle the district’s food service.
On Tuesday, March 5, Whitnall School District Superintendent Dr. Lowell Holtz sent an email to district parents about the incident and the media reports, explaining Heidke’s relationship to the school. Police informed district officials of Heidke's arrest, but officers told the district there was no reason to believe there was any inappropriate contact with Whitnall students, according to Holtz's letter.
The letter also stated the A’viands’ employee was banned by Holtz from all district property and that Heidke’s employer assured Holtz he would not be allowed in any school, Whitnall or other, as their representative.
Holtz sent out follow-up correspondence Wednesday, March 13, further addressing concerns that several parents had contacted him about, including issues about background checks, counselor availability for students and the timing of the initial correspondence.
That letter said background checks were performed and that counselors are always available. In an email to Patch, Holtz said he believes the situation was handled appropriately by the district.
“We would absolutely prefer to contact our parents before anything negative hits the media," he wrote in the letter. "In this case, we were surprised that TV12 actually ran the story. … With the individual arrested and no threat to our students, I wanted time to make sure we had accurate information before sending out a notice.”
School Board member Quin Brunette told Patch he's been in contact with about 50 families who believe the district did not relay information about the incident properly. Too many days passed between the time Heidke was charged and the district notified parents, Brunette said.
“The two biggest frustrations are parents, students, teachers and principals were not notified prior to the news report,” Brunette said. “My daughter saw it on Facebook. Many teachers, students, parents and some principals came to school the next day, some knowing and some not knowing.
“The other issue is, although the police department said they have no reason to believe that any of our students were engaged by this gentleman, we don’t know that for certain.”
Brunette said he requested the topic be placed on the March 11 school board agenda, but it was not. He spoke about his concerns during the public comments portion of the meeting, but was told the board could not address them because it was not on the agenda and was asked repeatedly to sit down by board president Nancy Zaborowski.
“The thing about it was we didn’t have anything to hide,” Brunette said. “We just want answers.”
At the informational meeting, a review of the timeline of events will be shared. Questions raised by parents in previous meetings or e-mails will be discussed and member(s) of the Greenfield Police Department will be available to comment on the collective commitment to the safety of students and community.
If parents have any additional questions they would like to see addressed, they can email them to Holtz at firstname.lastname@example.org.