Freeburg school principal to resign, saying some people ‘terrorize our school community’

The principal of Freeburg Elementary School has submitted a resignation letter saying some people “terrorize our school community” and he can no longer work in Freeburg because of the “unfounded attacks, bullying, and professional accusations” lodged against Freeburg School District 70 administrators.

Ryan Wittenauer sent his letter to school board members and staff in the district this week after he and District 70 Superintendent Melanie Brink were given new contracts by the school board on Monday night. He said he will leave his post at the end of the school year.

Wittenauer declined to comment when contacted by the Belleville News-Democrat. His letter has been posted on Facebook by a supporter.

Brink did not respond to an email or a voicemail message placed by the BND.

Michelle Foppe, president of the school board, did not respond to email sent to board of education’s email address.

Along with Foppe, the district’s website lists six other school board members: Ed Scheibel, vice president; Jamie Smith, secretary; Ron Humphries, Jayson Baker, John Lawson and Ben Howes.

Baker was the only board member to respond to the BND. He declined to comment on Wittenauer’s letter and added that was “Mr. Wittenauer’s story to tell.”

Wittenauer’s letter was released in the wake of the school board meeting on Monday night when a former district employee and a candidate for the school board in the April 4 election made critical comments toward Brink, according to an account of the meeting by The Freeburg Tribune.

“After the most recent board meeting, I cannot allow myself to be subjected to the unfounded attacks, bullying, and professional accusations that have been hurled at the school board members, Dr. Brink, and our administrative team,” Wittenauer said in his letter.

The district has posted online videos of some recent school board meetings but a video of Monday night’s meeting has not been posted as of Friday. The BND has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the district for a copy of the video of Monday night’s meeting.

Wittenauer did not cite specific persons or issues regarding the “unfounded attacks, bullying, and professional accusations.”

The district’s website has a compensation report that shows Wittenauer’s base salary is $74,810.

He notes that he has been an educator for 22 years and has served as principal for five years.

“For five years, I have walked into Freeburg Elementary School every day giving my best for the teachers, faculty, students, Board members, and our community,” he wrote. “I have had the privilege of working with two superintendents, four secretaries, many teachers and faculty, board members and hundreds of students. I am confident when I say that our current administration team and our teachers are the best that I have worked with in the 22 years I have dedicated to education in our community.”

Here are other points he made in the letter:

“Unfortunately, over the last two years, the school community that we all worked so hard to build and protect every day has been under attack with untruthful and misleading one-sided allegations.”

“These attacks have been deliberate results of a few individuals with their own personal agendas and motives. Yet, due to our professionalism and dedication to confidentiality, the school cannot fully defend itself or enlighten the community with the whole story.”

“Many educators are choosing to no longer accept the personal and professional attacks against our peers or ourselves. Therefore, so many quality educators are leaving, including myself.”

“This toxic environment that has been created takes a mental and emotional toll on educators and our families and prevents us from doing the jobs which we promise to do every day, which is serving our students. Their actions have gone too far, and my fear is that these individuals will not stop until they have their way in removing quality educators from Freeburg, due to their unfounded accusations and targeted bullying.”

“Despite the false theatrics that are currently alleged, I walk away with my head held high, and I will continue to be proud of this district.”