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Outrage builds over ousted wildlife museum director

  • Interim executive director Neal Ramus holds Ni–a, an Argentine Black and White Tegu, at the Petaluma Wildlife and Natural Science Museum on Tuesday, Ramus it is not known how much money is accounted for after the dismissal of former director Marsi Wier. (Beth Schlanker/The Press Democrat)

Parents, community members and students involved with the innovative Petaluma Wildlife Museum expressed outrage Tuesday night at a teacher's alleged misuse of the nonprofit's funds and pledged to hound school district administrators until they replace her.

There were also a few tears, a shared feeling of betrayal, a desire to repair the damage to the museum's image and, ultimately, a hope that the program could be restored to its former stature.

“This woman is robbing our children. She's taking their education. She's taking their integrity,” said Lori Glenn, whose two teenagers went through the wildlife and museum management courses at Petaluma High School.

The program, the nation's first, teaches hands-on business and management skills in a wildlife museum on the high school campus.

Allegations surfaced late last week that Marsi Wier, 49, mismanaged thousands of dollars of the museum's money, including expenditures at hair and nail salons, on massages and on daycare for her children.

She has not been charged with a crime and, according to Petaluma police, no criminal complaint has been lodged. Her attorney said he has seen no evidence showing Wier did anything wrong.

Members of the museum's nonprofit board removed Wier from her position as executive director, a position she'd held since 2000, after they discovered what they characterize as longtime misappropriation of the nonprofit's funds.

But Wier, a tenured teacher at Petaluma High School, remains assigned to teach the three wildlife and museum management classes. The museum, a private group, has no control over the teacher assigned by the district or high school.

Parent Cathy Thompson has started a signature-gathering effort demanding Wier be fired from teaching the program. A few parents said they were considering removing their children from the classes.

School and district officials refuse to talk about Wier's future, saying it is a confidential personnel matter. But in a written response to complaints about Wier, Superintendent Greta Viguie said Wier's actions as a teacher and museum director were unrelated.

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