Topeka area superintendent on leave after suspected drunk driving arrest

(Dr. Martin Stessman)
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TOPEKA (WIBW) Dr. Martin Stessman will keep his job as Shawnee Heights Superintendent, but will be placed on administrative leave until June 1, 2019, and lose 20 days of pay.

The decision, including a public reprimand, followed a lengthy executive session by the USD 450 Board of Education on Thursday night.

Stessman was arrested Saturday night in Jefferson Co. on suspicion of driving under the influence.

The board issued a statement following Thursday's meeting that they said served as a formal reprimand.

"Although this incident occurred during non-school hours and off school grounds, Dr. Stessman is reminded that as Superintendent, his conduct, during both school and non-school periods, directly reflects on the District, the Board of Education, the community, our students and their families," the statement read. "We expect that in the future, no similar incidents will occur, or Dr. Stessman's employment can be terminated immediately."

Thursday's executive session was the second the Board held since Stessman's arrest. The first was Sunday night. According to their statement, the Board opted not to relieve Stessman of his duties, but did recommend he, "Take some personal time off."

Thursday's executive session began at 6 p.m., and was extended several times. The Board issued its statement, outlining their decision, just after 9 p.m.

The Board outlined five actions taken against Stessman. The first outlines the administrative leave and the lost pay. The board has directed the pay go to an alcohol awareness program which they'll approve at a later date. Matt Hirsch will serve as interim superintendent while Stessman is on leave.

The Board also placed Stessman on one year probation; ordered him to complete a professional alcohol assessment; comply with recommendations from the assessment; and speak to students, using this as a teaching moment.

"We have been working hard to resolve this situation in a timely and respectful manner," the Board's statement read, while also thanking the community for its support.

The Kansas Highway Patrol says Stessman was arrested Saturday night after someone called 911 reporting a reckless driver on I-70 and Rice Road. The caller followed the vehicle north on K-4 to Highway 24 and then east. They noticed the vehicle make a U-Turn on the highway and then head back west.

A Trooper found Stessman parked on the side of the highway at 8:25 p.m. They conducted a field sobriety test and there were indicators he was impaired.

Stessman was booked into the Jefferson Co. jail and released just over an hour later on a $1,000 bond.