New Berlin School District #16 residents are concerned the environment between the school board, administration, and teachers have continued to deteriorate over the past several weeks. A public flyer has been posted about the New Berlin School Board Chairman Bill Alexander in recent weeks showing defamatory comments towards a family and other school board members in the district in regards to multiple subjects, including the death of a student in the district. Other residents of the district have accused Alexander and the board of not being transparent about recent actions ranging from the search of new superintendent Jill Larson, pay raises, and the failed building referendum from March.
New Berlin Education Association union chairman Joe Kindred says that things have been on a downhill slide since last year. “I think there is some evidence that it was already deteriorating. Again, it goes back to last summer when we spoke at the July board meeting and we asked questions. We were trying to engage the board. We were trying to have conversations with the Superintendent, [Adam Ehrman]. It’s a matter of record through FOIA documents that they decided to basically have no response to us. We felt like we were bringing legitimate issues, and that culminated in the ‘no confidence’ vote in October. Then, it segues into again, trying to have a positive dialogue with the district. We felt like we were making strides, but we also knew there was a referendum coming up [in March], and the referendum did not pass. In fact, many in the community feel like it was a second ‘no confidence’ vote of the leadership of the board as well as the direction led by our superintendent.”
A petition has been started on Change.org to have Alexander along with Board Vice President Chris Gordon removed from the board. The petition alleges Gordon has been complicit in Alexander’s unethical behavior and conduct creating what the petition has called a “toxic and hostile environment.” WLDS News has left messages with Mr. Gordon and as of press time have not received a return call.
The school board is having a special meeting tonight via Zoom regarding potential discipline to Joe Kindred ,Tonya Delaney, and Sarah Knepler following an investigation by Attorney Merry Rhoades that began in December last year. Kindred is the President of the New Berlin Education Association teacher’s union and is the junior high and high school baseball coach. The board is also expected to take action to remove Kindred from the coaching position. Kindred says the NBEA does not have any comment about the accusations from the community against Gordon and Alexander. “At this time, I think it is probably a position that [the union] continues to say that the community has made their wishes known at a number of board meetings. Our emphasis has always been what is best for the students, what’s best for our members. In terms of what the community has been asking for, we haven’t really taken a position at this time with regard to individual board members.”
Assistant Jr. High and High School Baseball Coach Jason Libben says that the discipline and removal of Kindred appears to be retaliatory in nature: “The current agenda that came out on Tuesday that everybody has seen is allegations or the results of an investigation of 3 teachers who happen to be tied to the union. It really makes it look as though it is a retaliatory event. Specifically, it’s aimed at Joe Kindred since at the bottom agenda that the board is looking to not renew his jr. high and high school contract. He has raised some issues since early last year that need attention in New Berlin. The powers that be on the board and the superintendent are not exactly happy with the issues that have been raised and the things he’s brought to light. This is just their way at getting back at all 3 of them.”
Libben has worked with Kindred since 2011 and sees no reason why Kindred’s coaching ability should be questioned because of his work with the union. Kindred says that his most recent coaching evaluation saw him receive all excellent ratings and found the board’s actions to be a shock when the agenda was released earlier this week.
The New Berlin Education Association voted “no confidence” against Superintendent Adam Ehrman in October last year. The school board at the time voted to retain Ehrman and made a statement of full confidence in Ehrman’s office. Ehrman announced in January that he would be resigning at the end of the school year in New Berlin to take a new position as the superintendent at Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53 on a five-year contract. In the March primary, voters rejected a $39.5 million building referendum for a new building for the junior/senior high school. WLDS News had attempted to reach Ehrman and Alexander from March to May in reaction to the failure of the referendum, but no emails or phone calls were returned.
Libben says that along with the petition, many in the district have also recently called on Bill Alexander to resign. “I do know that Mr. Alexander over the last several months has been asked at board meetings to turn in his resignation, even by fellow board members. All the requests have gone untouched, haven’t been discussed, and [the board] just moves on like nothing has happened. There are reasons why these people are asking for his resignation. They don’t just ask for it without reason. Board members don’t just ask for the board president to resign without reason. Everything has gone on deaf ears. If there is a problem that involves them, it falls on deaf ears but if it’s a problem with someone else they turn it into an investigation like they have currently and do what they want to do with it. If it involves them, they want nothing to do with it.”
Libben has said he will not return as assistant coach at the jr. high and high school this coming year if Kindred is terminated.
Several members of the New Berlin community who have corresponded with WLDS News say that Alexander has continuously lied about board business including ongoing litigation over 3 separate lawsuits (including this one reported in January and one that’s been ongoing since 2018) regarding sexual misconduct by former New Berlin teachers and coaches. New Berlin school board legal counsel has confirmed that only one active case is pending in court, and that dates back from 1986-1989.
Libben hopes that people will join the meeting tonight and speak during public comment. The meeting begins by Zoom at 6PM. Residents of the district can call 1-312-626-6799 and use meeting ID number 964 1068 4026.