Sterling superintendent resigns in wake of controversy over how school threat was handled

Sterling superintendent resigns in wake of controversy over how school threat was handled


Sterling Public Schools Superintendent Dottie Heusman resigned Tuesday in the wake of a threat reportedly made by a high school student that school officials didn’t report to law enforcement.

The Sterling Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to accept Heusman’s resignation and will hire an interim superintendent for the remainder of the school year.

School Board President Cheri Wirthele said the board hopes to have a permanent superintendent in place by next fall.

Heusman was hired as Sterling’s superintendent in 2017, after spending nine years as principal at Eagle Elementary School. Prior to that, she was an elementary teacher in Ashland-Greenwood Public Schools.

Wirthele said she couldn’t comment about why Heusman resigned, or whether there was a separation agreement.

But her resignation Tuesday followed a flurry of activity. At an Oct. 16 school board meeting several people spoke about the incident, and after that meeting the board held three other special meetings prior to Tuesday’s.

At the first special meeting Oct. 20, Heusman was placed on paid administrative leave following a closed-door job performance evaluation. At the second meeting the board voted to contract with a search firm to hire an interim superintendent and discussed the issue further at the third meeting.

Two weeks earlier, on Oct. 9, a 15-year-old student was arrested after being accused of threatening to shoot a high school classmate and showing others a hit list.

The girl who said she was threatened reported it to school officials. She said school officials responded by putting her and the student who threatened her in a room together and asking the boy if he had access to weapons. When he said he didn’t, the school did nothing further, according to the alleged victim.

The boy was arrested after other students reported it to the sheriff’s office.

In a written statement at the time, school officials said they had conducted their own investigation and didn’t find “that a credible threat existed.”

Wirthele said Heusman has always cared about Sterling schools and has been a strong part of them.

“At this time I feel bad the whole community is having to go through what they’re having to go through,” she said. “We’re going forward and we’re going to be stronger and smarter from all of this.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or

On Twitter @LJSreist.


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