BELCOURT, N.D. – The Belcourt School Board voted to suspend with pay Superintendent Dr. Lana DeCoteau at a regular board meeting Tuesday.
DeCoteau confirmed that she was suspended and that at least four of the seven board members voted in favor of the motion, but declined to comment further. The reason for the suspension is unclear.
DeCoteau has led the district since 2010.
Keith Lavallie is serving as acting superintendent of the district, which includes an elementary, middle, and high school, as well as a preschool program.
The move comes as the board is in the midst of an audit by North Dakota State Auditor Josh Gallion’s office. A group of citizens circulated a petition in January and submitted it to the Capitol, citing concerns over financial decisions by the board.
The Turtle Mountain Tribal Council did not participate in the petition, though Chairman Jamie Azure and the councilmembers submitted a letter of support for the process to Gov. Doug Burgum.
The move also comes amid concerns over whether individuals with criminal records should be allowed to serve on school boards. On Monday, Burgum signed into law Senate Bill 2230, which would summarily bar anyone with a felony conviction from serving on a school board.
Two current members of the board, Doug Delorme and Bruce Morin, have felony convictions.
A third member, Jeremy Laducer, struck a plea deal on April 5 to a B-misdemeanor simple assault charge that included a deferred imposition of sentence. He would have to pay a fine and go through counseling.
We have contacted a member of the Belcourt School Board, the superintendent’s office, and a lawyer for DeCoteau, and will update as we learn more.