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School board VP resigns amid backlash over tweet

Wagner apologizes for his remarks

Days after posting and deleting a controversial tweet on his personal Twitter account, Fort Dodge Community School Board Vice President Matt Wagner has resigned from his position on the school board.

Over the weekend, Wagner came under fire from community members after posting a tweet early Friday morning.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, read, “Forced reparations for apparently my ancestors … I’m not even sure my ancestors owe anyone an apology … but evidently I do. Sorry for all the privilege I get working 60 hours a week, while everyone else is at the lakes or looting a Target.”

Charles Clayton, director of the Athletics for Education and Success program, posted a screenshot of the tweet on his personal Facebook page on Saturday morning, sharing his outrage for the message it sent. Since then, the post has garnered hundreds of comments and reactions and dozens of shares. Many of the comments made called for Wagner’s resignation from the school board.

Also on Saturday morning, Wagner shared an apology for the tweet on his personal Facebook page, saying, “This week, I posted a tweet that I regret. … While I could try and defend what I meant, I absolutely understand why people are upset, so no defenses will be coming from me.”

By Monday afternoon, Wagner had sent his letter of resignation from the school board to school board President Stu Cochrane. Wagner’s resignation was approved by the board, along with the rest of the consent agenda, during Monday night’s meeting.

Following the vote, Cochrane read Wagner’s letter of resignation aloud.

Wagner’s letter began with the acknowledgement that this week, he’s failed the Fort Dodge community, both as a community member and as an elected leader.

“I recently tweeted in response to an article I read dealing with reparations for slavery,” he wrote. “My tweet was at best insensitive, especially given recent events in our world. While I cannot prove my intentions, I can only say that the words were poorly chosen and do not reflect what is in my heart. Unfortunately, I can only ask that you believe me when I say that, and I know that I have given many of you reason to doubt me.”

Wagner said he had the opportunity to have a conversation with Clayton on Saturday afternoon, and now has “a better understanding of the impact this has had on our community.”

“I hope it is not my last conversation with Charles because, as we discussed, we are capable of change and a better understanding of each other and that seeking out awareness of others’ points of view really could be the beginning of better relationships across the board,” he said. “To that end, I will try and do better, as we all can.”

After reading Wagner’s resignation letter to the board, Cochrane noted that the board understood the “position that Matt put himself in and the difficulty that his continued service would have caused” himself, the board and the district.

“As Matt said, he can do better — we can all do better in seeking out awareness and representing the members of this community,” Cochrane said. ”Promoting inclusiveness will always be the cornerstone of our district mission. If it isn’t, the slogan we preach and often talk about — ‘Together We Rise’ — will always be hollow.”

Wagner had been a member of the school board since 2012, being elected in 2011.

Both Wagner and Clayton declined to comment for this story.

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