CRANDON - The sudden departure of a longtime Crandon principal has students, parents, and staff confused and frustrated, with the school's senior class salutatorian calling the situation "way out of hand."
The issue led to shouted interruptions from concerned parents at a usually orderly Crandon School Board meeting on Monday night.
Andy Space worked in the district for more than 20 years, most recently as middle and high school principal. But he left the school on Jan. 26, and the district can't publicly announce the reasons he's no longer there. The school board voted to accept a resignation agreement with Space at the end of a four-hour meeting Monday night.
"We all really loved Mr. Space, and we want answers," Crandon High School senior McKenna Jensen, the class salutatorian, told the school board through tears.
On Jan. 8, the board voted to give Space a preliminary non-renewal, indicating he wouldn't be hired again for next school year. Two and a half weeks later, he worked his last day at the school before abruptly leaving. Monday's school board vote to accept a resignation agreement for Space came after a closed session of about two hours. The district has not given a reason for not renewing Space's contract or for accepting his resignation.
Space's departure came seemingly without warning to students and staff.
"Our school is just very chaotic," Jensen said. "The students all loved Mr. Space. They wanted him back, and they just really wanted answers. That's why everything got out of hand."
"This is just wrong," veteran math teacher Sue Van Hoof told the board Monday night.
Van Hoof got a call from Space on Jan. 25 saying he wasn't coming back, but he couldn't tell her anything more.
"That was it. We came to school the next day and had nobody in the big chair. So it was like chaos," she said. "I think we would just like some answers. Nobody knows [what happened]. There are rumors going around, but that's just a rumor."
Monday's meeting was moved from the normal board room to the auditorium to fit a crowd of nearly 200.
"We had a very packed house for our school board meeting," Superintendent Dr. Doug Kryder said. "They gave us a lot of input."
Kryder understands the crowd's anger in not knowing the reasons for Space's non-renewal and resignation. But he can't yet release details on Space's personnel situation.
"It can be a very frustrating thing when you're on the outside of 'the know,' but we do have standards and culpability with what we put out there and what we say," Kryder said. "We just try to do right by everyone that we can in all the situations."
There's no indication of any wrongdoing by Space. At the end of January, the district hired co-principals to replace him for the rest of the year. Kirby Schultz and Chris Lechnir are each working three days per week, overlapping one day.
"Both of these gentlemen come from a rich history of principalship," Kryder said.
But many students in Jensen's senior class don't want those principals to speak at their graduation.
"They absolutely do not want the two new principals to speak because they feel no connection," Jensen said. "They have no idea who these people are, and they also don't feel a connection to our superintendent."
Jensen and her teacher, Van Hoof, agree with many of the people in Monday's night's crowd. They just want an answer on what happened to Space.
"If we get answers, then I can say I'm proud to be a [Crandon High School] Cardinal," Jensen said. "But for now, I'd say no, because the chain of command and the communication at this school is way out of hand."
School board chair Brian Tupper declined to comment after Monday's meeting.
Andy Space did not return a message left for him.
Kryder said more details will become clear after the district responds to Newswatch 12's open records request.