Update: Des Moines School District Details Sebring Affair

By: Jacki Ochoa, Gary Smollen Email
By: Jacki Ochoa, Gary Smollen Email

Des Moines Public Schools says it does not spy on employees, but racy e-mails sent by then-superintendent Dr. Nancy Sebring became public after a freedom of information request was filed.

Details of a married woman's affair with a married man were revealed for all to read in e-mails obtained by the Des Moines Register.

“If the aspects of your personal life that you would prefer to keep personal were shared on the front page of the newspaper in excruciating detail, I think you'd be hurting about now,” said Des Moines School Board president Teree Caldwell-Johnson.

Dr. Sebring was hired in April to be the new Omaha Public Schools' superintendent. She planned to leave her Des Moines job on June 30th, but abruptly resigned on May 10th. It was disclosed last Friday she left earlier than expected after being confronted about sexually explicit e-mails sent during work hours via her district's e-mail account.

“We mentioned to her that there were several that were of concern to us,” said Caldwell-Johnson. “She hesitated for just a moment and then indicated that it was her intent to submit her resignation."

Dr. Sebring broke district policy by sending the sexually explicit e-mails from her work address. Just two days before she resigned she typed, "I'm filled with nervous energy, which I attribute to being consumed by the desire to put my body next to yours with nothing but your tattoos between us."

Beyond the sexual comments, Dr. Sebring revealed in an e-mail sent on April 16th that she wanted a divorce and that her affair opened her eyes. "I am finding that I am changing inside, happier for one thing, but also more aware, like I am finally waking up from a long, meandering, mind-dulling dream."

Despite the controversial e-mails, many of her former colleagues stand behind her work as superintendent. "The record of accomplishment earned her a candidate to lead larger school districts and for this she should indeed be commended,” added Caldwell-Johnson.

Dr. Sebring e-mailed her desire to resign from Omaha Public Schools on Saturday morning. "Due to recent events I feel my ability to lead the district has been compromised, thus I am offering my resignation as superintendent of the Omaha School District."

The Omaha School Board called an emergency meeting Saturday afternoon and voted 9-1 to accept Dr. Sebring's resignation.

Board president Freddie Gray asked for motions from the board. "I move that we accept the offer of resignation from Dr. Nancy Sebring," said board member Mary Morrissey. Several board members seconded the motion. The lone "no" vote came from board member Justin Wayne. He left the meeting immediately after the vote and did not make any comment.

The move leaves OPS without a leader and no clear cut procedure on where to go from here. "We will meet Monday and we will deliberate at that time and we will make a decision on how we will move forward," said Gray. "It is an unfortunate thing that has happened. There are no best practice models out there to tell you how to do this, but we will make our decision on Monday."

Two options seem to be contact the person who finished second to Dr. Sebring or start the search process from scratch. Another option could be to appoint an interim superintendent, but the board will want to explore its options before moving forward.

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