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West Fargo teacher to retire early after more misconduct allegations surface

WEST FARGO - West Fargo High School history teacher and coach Jim Jonas will retire early after Principal Jennifer Fremstad recommended he be fired for his inability to change his behavior in the classroom.

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West Fargo High School coach Jim Jonas. David Samson / The Forum

WEST FARGO – West Fargo High School history teacher and coach Jim Jonas will retire early after Principal Jennifer Fremstad recommended he be fired for his inability to change his behavior in the classroom.

An evaluation conducted by Fremstad on March 15, shows that Jonas was put on an improvement plan following allegations of inappropriate interactions with students in 2015. Fremstad wrote in her evaluation that, "It has become apparent that Mr. Jonas is unable or unwilling to be coached by administration and that there are continued concerns for the students he teaches."

In response, Jonas wrote a letter of resignation March 22, effective at the end of the 2015-16 school year in May.

"I am now looking forward to the next stage of my life as a political leader in the community of West Fargo," Jonas wrote in his letter. Jonas did not respond to messages from The Forum seeking comment.

The district offered $22,000 toward Jonas' early retirement if he resigned by the end of the 2015-16 school year, which state law allows for, according to district officials. Jonas signed the agreement to retire early on March 23. "Mr. Jonas has elected to retire from West Fargo Public Schools after serving 26 years as a classroom teacher and coach at West Fargo High School," West Fargo Public Schools Human Resources Director Robin Hill said in a statement. "All other matters in regards to his decision to retire are personnel matters, which the administration will not publicly discuss."

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Allegations of poor behavior from Jonas in the March 15 evaluation included that he swore at students, used coarse language in telling another student to put a name on the student's paper, called students dumb and stupid and asked a student with mental health issues "if the voices were now gone from her head."

According to personnel files reviewed by The Forum, Jonas told administrators some of those comments were made sarcastically because he wants to make his classes more fun. The files also noted that Jonas had apologized for other comments.

Jonas was put on a professional growth plan in March 2015. Jonas also had his class load reduced from five classes per day to two to reduce Jonas' stress levels, and a substitute teacher was present in his other two classes to prevent more negative interactions with students, district officials said.

Jonas' professional growth plan did not yield the results the district wanted, though.

"He continues to make hurtful and negative comments when not supervised and administration has exhausted the resources they have to address these concerns," Fremstad wrote in the March 15 evaluation.

The misconduct allegations follow a Nov. 23 School Board decision to remove Jonas from coaching following other misconduct allegations. Jonas returned to being an assistant coach after missing the 2013 basketball season and the 2014 football season. He has also been an assistant track and field coach.

Jonas' disciplinary issues go back further. He was suspended from coaching basketball in 1995 after an incident with an official over a call. He returned to coaching basketball in 2002 after that incident.

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
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