Damakant Jayshi

Wausau School Board member Ka Lo on Monday resigned her position, effective immediately, citing the “toxicity, disrespect and indifference” she says she endured by some of her colleagues and their friends.

In a statement shared with Wausau Pilot & Review and other media outlets, Lo said she contemplated resigning many times throughout her term as a result of those attitudes. Lo said she stayed on the board due to encouragement from members of the community but due to an opportunity that will take her out of the Wausau area, she will no longer be able to represent the constituency. Though she declined to elaborate on the opportunity, Lo said she will be away from Wausau for some time.

“It has never been in my nature to quit, ” Lo’s letter read.

She told Wausau Pilot & Review that the hostile attitude of some of the board members and their supporters began in early 2021 toward her and another member, Jane Rusch, due to their insistence on following safety protocols in the Wausau School District regarding COVID-19.

Lo frequently cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which had recommended mask or face covering inside school buildings, when asking for appropriate measures to protect students and staff. The school board ignored those recommendations and continued with its optional mask policy last year despite pleas from a number of parents, including medical professionals.

Lo also said her requests to put some items on the board agenda for discussion were either rejected or ignored, leaving her and Rusch with no option to discuss issues like Covid-safety protocols, masking and virtual academics.

Many parents were opposed to the mandatory mask mandate and virtual-only mode of teaching that went into place after the pandemic began in 2020, and Rusch lost her re-election bid in April.

“People close to some of these board members in the audience would make faces at me when I spoke about some of these issues during board meetings,” said Lo, who is the sole Hmong member of the board.

Lo addressed the statement to the “constituents of the Wausau School District” and added in her email to media outlets that the letter served also as her official resignation letter to the board. She told Wausau Pilot & Review she would not be sending the resignation to anyone else.

Board President James Bouche told Wausau Pilot & Review he would formally respond when the resignation letter is received through proper channels.

“At this point in time, we have not received a resignation letter at Longfellow from Ms. Lo,” Bouche said, referring to the district administration office. “According to policy, 0142.5, the Board Clerk should receive a resignation letter. Once I have had the protocol fulfilled, I will be able to give you a statement.”

The Wausau School Board has the authority to decide how it wants to fill the vacant position on the nine-member board.

The most recent example happened in 2020 when the Board sought to fill a vacant position after Theresa Miles resigned, citing health reasons. After receiving applications and interviewing four candidates the group appointed former board member and president, Jeff Leigh to serve the remainder of Miles’ term.

Marathon County Clerk Kim Trueblood told Wausau Pilot & Review that the appointment or replacement process is entirely up to the school board: they can appoint a replacement or order a special election.

“The only involvement I would have is if the board would decide to order a special election in conjunction with the November election,” Trueblood said.