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Holmen School Board President, Avatar ‘Annie’ resigns

Empower Wisconsin  | May 3, 2022

MADISON — Holmen School Board President Cheryl Hancock announced she was resigning immediately Monday night, a week after it came to light that she had used a phony Facebook page to go after local candidates and opponents of her agenda.

Her resignation followed a special, closed-door meeting of the full school board.

The board released a statement condemning Hancock’s actions.

“We would like to be clear that this type of behavior has no place on our school board and in our community,” the statement read in part.

Holmen School Board members must adhere to a policy that demands they “conduct themselves with integrity and high ethical principles in order to model the behaviors expected of staff and students and maintain public confidence and credibility.”

After a week of hearing from some very upset community members, the full board finally decided “the intent of this policy has been violated.”

Hancock also announced her retirement as the executive director of the Coulee Recovery Center, an addition treatment facility in nearby La Crosse.

It seemed Hancock’s resignation was in the offing Monday after the La Crosse Tribune called for her to step down.

“She should resign now. She has lost the trust of many in the Holmen community,” the newspaper opined. “To restore the trust, which is crucial in a school community for educational outcomes, Hancock has no other choice.”

She apparently didn’t.

As Empower Wisconsin reported last week, Hancock, writing under the pseudonym “Annie Allmaras,” popped up on the Facebook pages of key La Crosse County Republicans and supporters of conservative school board candidates Josh Neumann and Chad Updike. She told the La Crosse Tribune that her phantom Facebook account was an “alter ego.” She used it, she claimed, to “correct misinformation” of opponents of stringent mask mandates, left-leaning curriculum and other district policies Hancock supported.

Avatar Annie was relentless in her assaults on school board candidates challenging her allies.

Neumann, who lost in the election for school board last month, wrote on his campaign Facebook page that he had 87 messages from Hancock’s fake account. He said he asked her to stop engaging with him on social media.

“She doubled down on the deception over and over and made deceiving statements to the very public she’s sworn to represent. She felt invincible and above the rules,” Neumann wrote.

Hancock issued a statement last week saying she “can do better and be better.”

That was apparently good enough for a majority of her fellow board members, who last Monday re-elected Hancock board president (4-2) behind closed doors even after learning of her conduct. Hancock said she was grateful for the board’s confidence.

“We aren’t alone in wondering what the board members were thinking casting their votes that were not public,” the Tribune wrote in its editorial, adding that the board should move on without Hancock.

Following her resignation, Hancock issued a statement. She said she came to the decision that the situation had become unmanageable for her, her family and her friends and supporters. It also was no picnic for the district, the students, staff and the community at large.

She offered an apology … with a big but that read more like, “you’re welcome.”

“I would again like to apologize for the use of a false persona, but I would ask you to read what I said and judge for yourself whether my comments were harassing or bullying. When presented with the information becoming public — I was at a crossroads — I could have denied that I was in fact Annie and because no crime had been committed there was no way to prove it otherwise,” Hancock said. “The Holmen Police Department confirmed for me that there was never any investigation into this because there was no crime —  in fact, they have destroyed the records that were sent to them back in February. Last week I made the decision to be honest and forthcoming in my mistake and ask for forgiveness. I still ask for your empathy and forgiveness.”

The school board said it was taking the first step in rebuilding the “trust, integrity, confidence, and credibility that you expect of us as leaders in our community.”

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