St. Joseph

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Just a week after being served with a sixth federal grand jury subpoena, the embattled St. Joseph School District gave interim Superintendent Robert Newhart a vote of confidence by tacking two years onto his contract Monday night.

In addition to a little more job security and more money, the board of education also decided to drop interim from his title.

Newhart will continue to make his current salary of $174,500 through June 2017. His pay could then go as high as $181,480 for the 2017-2018 school year depending on how big a raise the board wants to give him.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It was the worst audit report ever issued about a Missouri school district.

But in a follow up report issued Monday, the state auditor says the St. Joseph School District is making progress.

The auditor report released in February — the only time the state auditor has ever given a school district a "poor" rating — was scathing.

The St. Joseph district, the report said, had a confusing and inconsistent payroll system that resulted in up to $40 million in unapproved stipend payments going back to 2000.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Providing free, lifetime health coverage to a school district employee was so unusual that the Missouri State Auditor called it "questionable and unnecessary". But that's exactly what the St. Joseph School District agreed to in its final contract with former Superintendent Dan Colgan.

On Monday, that benefit ended.

St. Joseph School District

One of the whistleblowers who brought to light secret stipends in the St. Joseph School District has resigned.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The embattled St. Joseph School District remains in the FBI’s cross hairs.  The district says it received another grand jury subpoena this week, the fifth in a little more than a year.

While the district wouldn’t say what the government specifically demanded in the subpoena, interim Superintendent Robert Newhart did say it included information from district employees.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The IRS audit of the scandal ridden St. Joseph School District will take an entire year to complete.

When the district announced the audit it said the IRS would be at district headquarters for only four days this month looking at contracts, termination agreements and board minutes from 2013.

But at the very end of this week’s board of education meeting, administrators told the school board the IRS will spend the next year combing through documents from 2012 through 2014. Many board members were stunned to hear the news.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

It's taken six months since a report from the Missouri State Auditor severely criticized the St. Joseph, Missouri School District and three of its top administrators, but Thursday the district finally pushed out its scandal-tainted former HR director.

The district says it reached a severance deal with Doug Flowers. It will pay Flowers $32,000 to leave the district.

Just when things were starting to look a little brighter in the St. Joseph School District, the IRS has stepped into the picture.

On Monday afternoon, the district received notice from the agency saying IRS auditors will be in district headquarters for three days next month examining a wide variety of information.

According to a news release from the district, the IRS will audit documents ranging from board minutes and organizational charts to employment contracts and termination agreements.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

There’s probably no tougher job in education in Missouri right now than leading the scandal plagued St. Joseph School District.

So the board of education has called on a hometown hero of sorts.

Dr. Robert Newhart started his career in St. Joe, his mother is a legendary high school government teacher there and Newhart is a hall of fame football player from Missouri Western University in St. Joseph.

Even though Newhart only has a one year contract and the title of "interim superintendent" the board expects him to start cleaning up the mess.

St. Joseph School District

With its former superintendent on his way to the Missouri bootheel, the St. Joseph School Board has picked an interim superintendent it hopes can lead the district out of scandal.

Dr. Robert Newhart, a veteran administrator, was picked by the board of education in a closed session Thursday night.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The former superintendent whose actions created the current scandals dogging the St. Joseph, Missouri, School District has landed a new job in education.

Fred Czerwonka, who was fired following a scathing state audit report, has been hired by the tiny Caruthersville School District tucked into the Bootheel of Missouri, according to Superintendent J.J. Bullington. Czerwonka's wife, Wendy, has also been hired and will teach business at the high school.

Czerwonka will be director of school services. The Czerwonkas will start their new jobs on July 1.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Dr. Fred Czerwonka, on paid administrative leave for the past 90 days as superintendent of the St. Joseph School District, abruptly resigned late Friday night.

But in one final twist to his rocky tenure, Czerwonka's letter of resignation was not sent to school board members but to the St. Joseph News Press.

"I hope my resignation can allow the District to move forward with the hiring of my successor. I look forward to continuing the good work I have been put here by God to do," Czerwonka wrote in a letter address to board president Brad Haggard.

St. Joseph School District

The embattled St. Joseph Board of Education Thursday night appears to have put one of its many legal problems behind it.

The board voted 5-0 to settle a lawsuit filed by CFO Beau Musser after he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct.

"We are relieved that we are at this point," said board member Chris Danford.

The amount of the settlement was not released. But it appears there are still a few details to work out.

Musser was one of the whistle-blowers on $270,000 in stipends secretly given to 54 top administrations last spring by former superintendent Fred Czerwonka.

According to his lawsuit, Musser was worried that the board was kept in the dark about the stipends and concerned it may violate Missouri law.

When he brought those concerns to Czerwonka and HR director Doug Flowers he was accused of misconduct. According to the lawsuit, Czerwonka and Flowers offered to buy out Musser's contract in return for his silence on the stipends.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The legal woes of the St. Joseph School District continue after a fourth federal grand jury subpoena was issued to the district.

This latest subpoena, according to sources, demands documents ranging from expense reports and time sheets of some top district administrators to contracts with district vendors.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney in Kansas City have been investigating the district for almost a year.

Previous subpoenas have sought records of district maintenance workers after allegations that some employees were doing work for administrators at their homes during school hours.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

In a surprise move, a St. Joseph School District board member resigned Thursday morning.

Dr. Dan Colgan is a former board president and was superintendent for 14 years in the district before retiring in 2006 and getting elected to the school board.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Almost two years to the day that he signed his contract with the St. Joseph School District, Superintendent Fred Czerwonka has been fired.

The action was announced in a statement Saturday morning from the district. The board voted 6-0 to fire Czerwonka. Former district superintendent and board president Dan Colgan was absent.

No other personnel actions were taken, according to the statement.

Sources say the district has already created a list of potential interim superintendents if or when Czerwonka exits.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The No. 2 person in the St. Joseph School District, who is now on administrative leave, claims he is not the target of an ongoing FBI investigation of the district.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Update: Jan. 22, 2:25 pm

The St. Joseph School District has confirmed that Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan are now on administrative leave.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Officials in the St. Joseph School District have been nervously waiting for months for a report from the Missouri State Auditor.

KCUR has learned that the report is back and the board will discuss it Tuesday in executive session.

The Missouri State Auditor moved a five-member team into district headquarters last Spring after it was revealed that the new St. Joseph school superintendent, Dr. Fred Cerwonka, handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators without seeking board approval.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph School District is facing a raft of problems these days. The federal investigation into the District's improper use of stipends continues with a third subpoena issued on Nov. 20. On this edition of Up to Date, we get the latest on the continuing scandal. 


Sam Zeff / KCUR

The federal investigation into the St. Joseph School District is becoming more focused.

A third grand jury subpoena was served on the Missouri district late Thursday.

This latest subpoena for documents asks for some very specific information.

In a news release, the district says the grand jury sitting in Kansas City, Mo., wants to know about the district's tuition reimbursement and teacher certificate reimbursement programs.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

The St. Joseph School District in St. Joseph, Mo., faces a raft of problems, including an investigation by the FBI, a federal grand jury in Kansas City, the U.S. Department of Education and the Missouri State Auditor. 

But at least one of the embattled district’s problems may be cycling to an end.

Probably best known as the home of the Pony Express, St. Joseph, Missouri received a shock when the Feds came to town. Currently, the School District there is being scrutinized by the FBI, grand jury subpoenas have been issued, and the State Auditor has weighed in with an in-depth review of financial activities involving district administrators.

KCUR’s Sam Zeff has been looking into this and he joins Steve Kraske to explain what has caused all the interest and just how much trouble it could mean for the district.

Abolishing Daylight Savings

Mar 12, 2013

Saturday night, as our clocks sprung forward and we lost an hour of our day, one man in Missouri was hoping this would be the last Daylight Savings Time he went through. Representative Delus Johnson of St. Joseph, Mo. proposed a bill that would extend the Daylight Savings change all year long.

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St Joseph, Mo. – A never-reported liaison between Kansas City and St Joseph police more than 30 years ago led to a conviction of a serial rapist, now charged with more rapes in Kansas City. Bernard Jackson was a suspect in at least two rapes of women in the Pony Express City in 1976 and 77. There was no physical evidence to charge him there.

Current St. Joseph Detective Commander Jim Connors tells KCUR Jackson was considered in both cities.