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On paid leave: Nevada Union assistant principal admits mistake

Brian Hamilton
Staff Writer

A Nevada Union High School assistant principal placed on paid administrative leave Thursday said he made a mistake and understands the district’s decision.

Sven Ostrom, who plans to retire in June after 31 years at Nevada Union, said he was placed on leave after helping a student with a petition to keep current NU Principal Marty Mathiesen and Assistant Principal Cathy Peterson on campus. School board members last month approved a transfer of the two administrators to other district campuses.

“A few days ago, a student asked me about how to undergo putting together a petition supporting Marty Mathiesen and Cathy Peterson staying at Nevada Union,” Ostrom said. “So I wrote out in my own handwriting a paragraph he could use. And, bless his heart, he took the paragraph I wrote and used it as cover sheet for his petition.”

As the student circulated the petition, it apparently ended up in the district office, Ostrom said.

“So I was in (Assistant Superintendent) Trisha Dellis’ office, looked at it and said ‘Yes that’s my handwriting’ and told her what I did. It was probably bad judgment on my part. You’re not supposed to use kids for political purposes. I thought it would be a good lesson. He asked me, so I did it.

“I do want to publicly apologize to my colleagues and the student involved,” Ostrom said.

How long Ostrom will remain on leave is not yet known, Interim Superintendent Marianne Cartan said Friday, noting an investigation is ongoing.

Ostrom said he was asked to turn in his radio and campus keys and was asked by Dellis if he had anything he needed from his classroom. But when he said he wanted to retrieve his lunchbox, he said he was told by Dellis that his wife, Robin, would have to pick it up and that he would have to make other arrangements to also get his truck, which was parked on campus.

“I wanted to get my lunchbox, because it’s

pretty special to me. It’s the one my dad (Alec) used every day in the Northstar (gold) mines,” Ostrom said. “Besides, it had codfish in it and I didn’t want to stink up the office, being a good Swedish guy, you know.”

Upon leaving the superintendent’s office, Ostrom said he encountered Nevada Joint Union High School District Board President Mark Heauser, who had not yet received the news of Ostrom’s leave. Although Ostrom felt that was “peculiar,” Cartan confirmed the leave was an administrative decision that had just been made and was about to be reported to board members.

Heauser said Friday he gave Ostrom a ride to his pickup truck.

Robin Ali, who also plans to retire this year after 30 years at Nevada Union, said she thinks her husband was disrespected by not being allowed to retrieve his own belongings and to walk across campus alone to his truck.

“Just the disregard,” she said. “A guy who’s worked there and made such a difference in kids lives for 30 years couldn’t walk 30 yards out his office and get his lunchbox? I just haven’t heard of such disregard for people.”

Cartan said Dellis was only following district policy on administrative leave, when she would not allow Ostrom to return to campus unescorted.

“That’s protocol,” Cartan said, “and reason being for his removal from the environment is so the investigation could take place. When you’re investigating the report, and the investigation is pending, you are placed on paid administrative leave and that’s not a punitive situation. It could be for one, for two days, depending on the severity of the situation, or it could be very short.

“It was not personal at all,” Cartan said. “Nothing was done out of the ordinary.”

Ostrom has taught English, history and math at Nevada Union, while also having served as a basketball and baseball coach, in addition to his role as an administrator.

Many members of his family have taught at the school, including his uncle Homer “Buzz” Ostrom, one of Nevada Union’s first football coaches and the namesake for Sierra College’s football field in Rocklin. Homer’s children, Sig Ostrom and his sister, Nordis, each coached track and field at Nevada Union.

The Ostrom family now has a third generation of teachers at Nevada Union, including Loren Brown, Sig Ostrom’s brother-in-law and Allison Cassell, Sig Ostrom’s daughter, who teaches the same subject – science – in the same classroom her father once taught, Sven Ostrom said.

“Sven and I have a total of 60 plus years of service at Nevada Union,” Robin Ali said. “And we are not going to allow these actions by a few people in our last 35 days overshadow that.”

As to the transfer of Mathiesen and Peterson from Nevada Union, Sven Ostrom said although he should not have helped the student craft the petition, the situation has caused concern among fellow administrators on campus.

“I think it’s very unsettled, because all the administrators are looking over their shoulders,” he said. “But I screwed up. With my experience as an administrator, I should have handled it differently.”

To contact City Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail bhamilton@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4249.

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