The New Berlin School Board voted to discipline two teachers at Thursday night’s special board meeting. The board heard from more than a dozen community members, current students, and former students of the district during the public comment section. Many spoke in support of the district’s teachers, including Joe Kindred, Sarah Knepler, and Tonya Delaney who were listed on the evening’s agenda for possible disciplinary action.
Local photographer and New Berlin parent Sarah Pointer asked the board to table the items and asked for more information: “I’m going to personally ask each of the board members to table [the action times] on the agenda for tonight for the purpose that there has not been enough information gathered. I don’t understand how you can ask people to make comments prior to providing any information on the agenda items. How can people be expected to make comments when they don’t know what they are commenting on? I can definitely comment on the character of these three teachers, and I think they are all wonderful teachers. If you are wanting to do what’s best for the students, you would not do anything to harm them…I’m asking you all personally to table this issue. I think that the timing is off. To have this meeting prior to our ability to have a face-to-face meeting feels like blatant retaliation, in my opinion. It’s not even being smooth or slick or about it. You all, this is just blatant. This is blatant retaliation to the [teacher’s] union, and that’s the way it appears to this community. I think it’s wrong, and I don’t think it’s what is best for our kids.”
During approval of the evening’s agenda, Board member Bridget Williams asked if the disciplinary action items against Kindred, Delaney, and Knepler could be tabled or removed. Board Chairman Bill Alexander said that under Robert’s Rules of Order that a tabling motion would have to occur during each action item as it came up and that the items could not be removed from the agenda. The board then proceeded into executive session for more than 2 hours.
After concluding executive session, the board by a 5-2 vote found cause of defect in the conduct of math teacher and Jr. High/High School baseball coach Joe Kindred. The resolution also voted to dismiss Kindred from the district. Kindred is to be served with a bill of particulars that documents an independent investigation. The investigation was conducted independently by Attorney Merry Rhoades with the cooperation of Jr./Sr. High School Principal Hattie Llewellyn. Kindred was also not renewed as the Jr./Sr. High School head baseball coach in a separate 5-2 vote. Dottie Crews and Bridget Williams voted against the measures to dismiss Kindred on each action item. Kindred is to be served with the bill of particulars within 5 days time. The board did not reveal during the meeting a summary of the misconduct findings of the investigation during the meeting.
A similar investigation was also conducted into Junior High science and art teacher Tonya Delaney and Junior High Language Arts Specialized Instructor Sarah Knepler. Delaney’s conduct was found to be in violation of the board’s policies on ethics, conduct, conflicts of interest, and responsibilities concerning internal information. The board voted unanimously to suspend Delaney 1 day after an advisement on July 1st from incoming Superintendent Jill Larson.
Knepler’s investigation rendered no defects and the board approved no findings in her conduct unanimously.
All three teachers have administrative positions with the New Berlin Education Association.
WLDS News left a callback number with board Secretary Dr. Adam Jones and placed a voice mail on Board Vice Chairman Chris Gordon’s phone but received no call back for comment.