ARNOLD • The Fox School Board named an interim superintendent Wednesday in place of Dianne Critchlow, who is at the center of a scandal involving nasty online comments made about three critics of the district.
Tim Crutchley, assistant superintendent of school services, will lead the district.
The change in leadership came during a closed-session meeting called to address the allegations stemming from the comments. The meeting lasted more than two hours.
School Board President John Laughlin said the board had put four employees on paid leave, but he would not say whether Critchlow was one of the employees.
She has been on leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Laughlin did say that Dianne Critchlow’s husband, Jamie Critchlow, had been put on paid leave last week. Jamie Critchlow heads an at-risk program for the district.
More details about the closed-session meeting are expected after a 72-hour waiting period ends and officials must release the results of any votes.
The Critchlows are two of the four district employees named by an attorney who filed a libel lawsuit on behalf of Sam Ferry, Michelle Tyler and Rich Simpson as making comments on a Topix website about his clients.
The attorney, Dan Herman, also said comments were traced to the home of William Brengle, who retired as an assistant principal at Fox High School in 2009 after more than 30 years in the district.
The majority of the comments were linked to computers registered to the Critchlows’ home address as well as to that of Angela Burns, who is married to Dan Baker, an assistant superintendent. Burns is an assistant principal in the district.
Laughlin promised on Wednesday a thorough investigation into the allegations, calling the situation “time-consuming and frustrating.”
Some posts on the Topix website accused the critics of depravity and criminal acts, including sex with animals and possession of child pornography, according to the suit.
The suit is filed against John Doe. Herman filed the suit in February before he knew who made the comments, which were posted last year.
A judge ordered Topix to turn over IP-addresses linked to the comments, and that information led to the administrators’ homes, Herman said.
He said Friday that he expected to amend the lawsuit to include the names of those traced through IP addresses. He would not say whether he intended to add the district as a defendant.
The Critchlows have not responded to repeated attempts by the Post-Dispatch to reach them for comment. Efforts to reach Baker and Burns also have not been successful. Brengle has said he said nothing wrong.
Laughlin said repeatedly Wednesday that laws governing the confidentiality of personnel matters restricted him from saying more.
Dianne Critchlow is one of the top-paid superintendents in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her base pay for the 2013-2014 school year was $260,598, the third-highest in the state behind the superintendents of Lee’s Summit and Kirkwood schools.
She has been superintendent since 2004.
The school board also hired on Wednesday a new law firm, but Laughlin wouldn’t divulge more details.
The allegations about the district’s leaders have caused a stir in Arnold.
Stephanie Behrmann, who has two children in the district and attended the meeting Wednesday, said administrators should be role models, not bullies.
“If the allegations are true, it’s setting the worst possible example for the students,” she said.