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Iowa Watchdog

Former Des Moines superintendent Sebring suing district


DES MOINES – Former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring is filing a lawsuit against her former employer alleging district officials tipped off the Des Moines Register to the sexually explicit emails that led to her resignation.

The lawsuit alleges district spokesman Phil Roeder and former board president Teree Caldwell-Johnson informed the newspaper of the emails prompting the Register to request them through an Open Records request. The two’s actions caused intentional harm to Sebring’s reputation, she alleges. The district’s attorney Patricia Lantz was also named in the lawsuit.

Former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring is suing her former employer for allegedly purposefully harming her image.

Former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring is suing her former employer for allegedly purposefully harming her image.

Caldwell-Johnson did not return phone calls. Roeder did not comment but emailed Iowa Watchdog a statement from Superintendent Thomas Ahart.

“This lawsuit is unbelievable,” it said. “In this matter, the school district did the right thing and properly released public records according to Iowa law, a fact that has already been established by the Iowa District Court. As a public school district, we abide by the state’s open records law, and will continue to properly respond to requests for public records. Everyone at Des Moines Public Schools is focused on our number one priority: the education of our 32,000 students.”

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Current board president Dick Murphy said he hadn’t yet seen Sebring’s lawsuit but confirmed the district was being sued. He had no further comment.

Sebring did not return multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment.

The former superintendent resigned abruptly last year before she was set to leave the district for a job leading the Omaha School District. At the time, Caldwell-Johnson told the public Sebring stepped down because she needed more time to prepare for her daughter’s wedding and the move to Omaha.

The emails uncovered, however, that Sebring was using district computers to send sexually explicit emails to her lover, some of which were sent during work hours. Both were married. Caldwell-Johnson and Murphy confronted her about the emails and she then resigned.

Contact Sheena Dooley at Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for, where this story first appeared.

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