Spring Grove board president thanks Jansen, also notes 'distraction'

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

Given the controversy surrounding Spring Grove Area school board member Matt Jansen, a fellow board member said he thought residents would show up to speak their minds one last time before he resigns.

“There are no protesters tonight. I’m bummed,” board member Douglas White joked during the district’s regular voting meeting on Monday, Aug. 21.

Board President Cindy Huber formally announced Jansen’s planned resignation, which she said would be tendered in a letter on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

Public comment regarding board member Matt Jansen during the Spring Grove school board meeting at the Educational Service Center in Spring Grove, Monday, March 6, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Tongue lashing: She added some personal remarks, speaking to Jansen at one point. “Matt, I’d like to take this opportunity ...“ she said, before being interrupted by Jansen.

“... To thank you for a colorful time?” he said jokingly.

Huber thanked Jansen for his year and a half on the board, calling his tenure an “interesting time” and adding that there were “challenges” he posed for the board and the district.

“I do have to say you’re very passionate about things that are important to you, and it’s not always a bad thing,” she said, but she added that Jansen’s politically charged rhetoric came at a cost to the district.

“While each board member — each of us nine — stands alone, the dedication to your causes has caused some conflict here and some backlash to the district,” Huber said.

“I do believe that you underestimated the reaction and that you came into this position wishing to do what you could to make our district better and stronger,” she added.

After thanking Jansen for his time on the board, Huber moved on to other district business.

No constituents spoke during public comment, and it appeared no one but employees within the district was in attendance at the Monday night meeting.

Reached after his last meeting as a board member, Jansen said he had regrets.

“I shouldn’t have said that to that pastor,” he said, reiterating what he told The York Dispatch late last week.

The message: Several community members called on Jansen to resign in June 2016 after he left a voicemail message on the phone of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Dallastown in response to the church's sign that wished a "blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors."

The Rev. Christopher Rodkey received the phone call from Jansen, who said he was "shocked" by the "despicable," "unbelievable" sign and that Islam is a "godless," "pagan" religion.

Rodkey suggested that Jansen, who served as a delegate for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he voted for Donald Trump, was unfit for his duties on the school board after the comments.

Jansen apologized for his message and later accepted an invitation to dine with local Muslims at Hadee Mosque in Harrisburg.

On Monday, he said the voicemail “brought unnecessary storm clouds to the district.”

Jansen also admitted to being reactionary.

“I have a tendency to respond to stuff,” he said.

More controversy: Calls for his resignation re-emerged in February when this tweet appeared on Jansen's Twitter feed: “Well than this wetbacks family should be thrown out of the country.”

Spring Grove School District board member Matthew Jansen's Twitter reportedly posted this early Monday morning. Screenshot courtesy Amy Gunzelman.

The tweet was in response to an article from Breitbart, a conservative news outlet, and was deleted soon after it was posted.

More: Spring Grove board member won't resign despite protests

More: After rant on Islam, school board member dines with Muslims

More: Talk of diversity at Spring Grove’s school board meeting

Jansen has claimed his account was hacked, but he never filed a police report regarding the situation.

'An example': Jansen called his tenure in public service a learning experience .

“I think all school board members need to realize that they need to use my situation as an example of how much scrutiny you could be under (in a public office),” he said.

Jansen, who will be moving to Dallastown with his wife and child, said he is unsure whether he would one day run for the Dallastown school board but did not count it out.

“We’ll see,” he said. “There’s a lot I don’t know about that school board,” including its regional representation.

Negative impact: In an interview after the board’s executive session, Huber again noted Jansen’s rhetoric negatively impacted the district for months, calling it a “distraction.”

However, Huber said she would not pursue efforts to avoid a situation such as Jansen’s in the future.

“Regardless of whether we agree with them or support their views or not, I have to respect that people came out and decided to serve," she said.

“As far as I’m concerned, I have to abide by the laws whether I agree with them or not,” Huber said

As board members exited the meeting room, many refused to comment but took selfies with Jansen.

Vacancy: Jansen's resignation will leave a vacanc,y and plans to fill the post have already been set.

Huber said a posting will be made on the district website calling for candidates to finish Jansen's term, which ends December 2019.

The board will accept applications for individuals seeking the post from Aug. 22 to Sept. 6.

The school board will interview the candidates in public on Monday, Sept. 11, and select the new board member on on Monday, Sept. 25, according to Huber.