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Kalispell Public Schools investigates anonymous emails

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The superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools is reassuring community members and vowing an investigation into the release of romantic emails —purportedly from an assistant principal.

On Thursday morning, an individual going by “Rob Thompson” sent several northwestern Montana media outlets emails allegedly sent from the work account of Bryce Wilson, Flathead High School's assistant principal and activities director.

Dated between May 2011 and February 2012, the amorous messages were sent to Michele Paine, a longtime Kalispell Public Schools employee who currently serves as Flathead High’s principal. The messages provided to the media did not contain pornography or other content banned by school district policy.

In an emailed statement, Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau did not dispute the messages’ authenticity, but wrote that “It is highly unfortunate that the personal relationship of two employees has consumed a certain individual(s) in our community.”

Flatau explained that the information appears to have been sent from “a number of one-time Gmail accounts from various fake names. It appears that this email was sent out to KPS employees, KPS families, KPS students and school districts statewide. We do not feel that this email came from an internal KPS Gmail account.”

His release went on to state that “currently the District is in contact with legal counsel and has contracted with multiple network forensics entities to determine the source of the emails. … We will contact law enforcement in the event that the individual(s) engaged in criminal activity.”

The love messages underpin a larger allegation from the source: that Wilson’s and Paine’s alleged relationship created a conflict of interest when Paine was named Flathead High’s interim principal in July 2017, then its principal last March.

According to minutes from the school district Board of Trustees’ July 11, 2017, meeting, board members were concerned that giving Paine the principal’s office would “create a conflict of interest within current building Administrative Team but this would be addressed by Superintendent Mark Flatau supervising/evaluating” the assistant principal and activities director.

Paine was named interim principal. Then, on March 1, 2018, an anonymous individual using a Gmail account titled “One Time” emailed Flatau, voicing concern about Paine and Wilson’s alleged romantic relationship affecting their professional one. ”I am gobsmacked that this has been allowed to occur since Ms. Paine was hired as interim principal last July,” the person wrote.

In a reply email, Flatau pointed the individual toward the July meeting minutes “indicating that a conflict of interest would exist and how it has been dealt with for this school year. It is fully understood that if the current interim principal is selected as principal that this issue would need to be addressed.”

He reiterated that stance in Thursday’s release, writing that “during the 2017/18 school year, when Michele Paine was acting as Interim Principal for Flathead High School, the supervision of Bryce Wilson was assigned to Superintendent Mark Flatau. … After Michele Paine was selected Principal of Flathead High School for the 2018/19 school year, Callie Langohr, Assistant Superintendent, was assigned supervision of [Flathead and Glacier High School, and Kalispell Middle School] activity directors and programs.”

Meeting minutes from 2017 also identify Wilson as Flathead High's Title IX coordinator, responsible for handling reports of sex discrimination. School staff could not be reached for comment on whether he currently holds that role.

Neither Wilson nor the individual identified as “Rob Thompson” replied to requests for comment.

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