Grand Forks Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nybladh issued an apology Thursday after a Fargo television host said the official used a curse word on the host after an interview.
Nybladh said in a press release he regretted his choice of words.
"I know the job of superintendent is 24/7 and I hold myself to a high standard," he said. "I was taken aback and frustrated with the style of journalism, especially when it turned to what I perceived to be an attack on our teachers and students. Even though it was an utterance made only to myself in the privacy of an office, I regret my remark and I am disappointed in myself because this does not reflect my true character. I sincerely apologize to the host of the television program and anyone else who may have been offended by my poor choice of words."
Nybladh appeared Wednesday on the program "6:30 Point of View," hosted by Chris Berg, for a Valley News Live broadcast that airs in Grand Forks and Fargo.
Nybladh was discussing the district's proposed 28.6 percent tax increase to help offset the district's $5.4 million deficit.
Berg and Nybladh clashed at times during the interview as Berg pressed Nybladh about the district's budget.
After the interview was broadcast, Berg played an audio recording of what he described as Nybladh calling him a crude word after the interview was complete.
Nybladh, who was touring schools Thursday, could not be reached for comment.
Board member Tim Lamb said he thinks Berg provoked Nybladh into saying something off the record by the "disrespectful" way he treated him during the interview. It was unprofessional, he said.
"In general, Chris Berg has got the sort of personality that can be corrosive and provoking," he said. "He's on the edge of shock journalism."
Board member Mike St. Onge said there's no written rule that addresses an instance such as this one, but standard procedure would be that the board president would meet with the superintendent to discuss whether anything should be done about it. St. Onge said he doesn't know if that happened or not.
"For my purposes, we've all done things in life in one moment that we probably wish we could take back," he said. "This seems like one of those. I know he felt bad about what he said, and I think he handled that well with the apology issued today."
Several other members could not be reached for comment, including board President Vicki Ericson.
The incident between Berg and Nybladh only serves as a distraction from the more important conversation about the school board's proposed increase, St. Onge said. The board is still inviting the public to contact the administrative team if they have more questions.
Page 2 of 3 - "I want to be sure to encourage dialogue," he said.
On the Web: To see Berg's interview with Nybladh, go to bit.ly/13JKpcQ.
Tense exchange followed by cursing
Fargo television host Chris Berg described the interview Wednesday with Grand Forks Superintendent Larry Nybladh as "tough and respectful" until after the broadcast, when he claimed Nybladh used a curse word to describe him.
Berg quizzed Nybladh on the district's deficit for about 10 minutes, claiming a few times the superintendent didn't answer any of his questions.
One of the more tense moments during the interview arrived when Berg challenged Nybladh on $4.3 million in new costs because of 14 new staffers, saying he "got those numbers right out of the Grand Forks Herald."
Here's a transcript:
Berg: "You mentioned last year enrollment growth was roughly 230 or so students and included 14 new full-time staffers and increased salary costs, which resulted in $4.3 million in new costs. For 14 staffers? Help me understand."
Nybladh: "Well, I don't know where you got those numbers. ..."
Berg: "Right out of the Grand Forks Herald."
Nybladh begins to say something, Berg interrupts.
Berg: "Excuse me, sir, I got those numbers right out of the Grand Forks Herald."
Nybladh: "Well, I didn't say they were mine, then, did I? I said the increased costs related to, the additional staff needed to accommodate that new enrollment growth and other compensation related to that. It's not all directly related to the growth, but a large part of it is. And like I've said, without additional state aid to support those costs, the district ended up deficit spending for that reason."
Berg: "So are you saying the Grand Forks Herald is lying?"
Nybladh: "I didn't say that."
Berg: "You said they weren't your numbers, so are they just making them up?"
Nybladh: "I don't know what... Four million doesn't sound like a number that we've been discussing, so I don't know what context you're using that number in."
Berg: "The number I have says from last year's budget to this year's, you've increased the budget by $8 million. Again, let's say 232 students last year and 250 students this year, $8 million. That equates to $32,000 per student."
Nybladh: "I think those numbers are not the way we're analyzing them. We're looking at a 3 percent increase in budget, and teachers are looking at a 2.65 percent increase in salaries. I don't think that's exorbitant either."
After the interview, Berg informed Nybladh that they were going to broadcast the clip when he called Berg a curse word and wanted a response.
Nybladh: "Well, I guess I don't have anything to say about it."
Berg: "So, you're OK with the fact that...."
Page 3 of 3 - Nybladh: "I would appreciate it if you didn't play that. I thought I came on in good faith and tried to help you with your story. I guess I would hope that you would honor that. That would be my take on it."
Berg: "My job is to ask you the tough questions. And it's your job to obviously answer those. You're asking me to honor that from the standpoint that you called me an _______?" (Berg uses an abbreviated form of the curse word while on the air.)
Nybladh: "I don't know what you have on tape, I don't know what your reception is."
Berg: "Do you admit that you called me an _______?"
Nybladh: "I did not call you anything during the interview, sir, thank you."
Berg: "So, once the interview was over, did you call me an _______."
Nybladh: "After the interview was over, that's my time, not yours. You use the interview and I'd appreciate that, Chris."
Berg: "Right. I'm just asking you to confirm or deny. It's on tape, you can obviously deny it. But we've got it. I was...."
Nybladh (interrupts): "In good faith I did the interview, I'd suggest you use that." (Hangs up.)