Parents sound off on Lakeville North High School AD’s arrest

Some criticize district response

Some parents are raising concerns about the Lakeville Area School District’s support of Bob Ertl, Lakeville North High School’s athletic director who pleaded guilty to DWI last month.

Ertl told district officials of his June DWI arrest, has sought treatment, and the district is supporting him in the steps he is taking to address the issue, but some parents think he should be fired.

“I think he needs to be removed,” said Lakeville parent Genny Andrusko. “There needs to be accountability regarding the position he holds.”

She said the DWI should have been “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” referring to Ertl’s history related to drinking and driving.

Ertl was charged with a DWI in 2008, but under a plea agreement charges were dropped to careless driving.

Lakeville Schools Communications Director Linda Swanson said the district has received several emails from parents concerned about Ertl’s arrests and the district’s response.

In an email, Gail Rutan said she was “appalled” by the situation and asked for his dismissal.

“His role is so much more than a teacher,” she wrote in the Jan. 4 email. “He is in charge of addressing all of the issues of alcohol and drug issues with students and parents.  There is NEVER a reason to get behind the wheel of a car after even one drink. By not taking actions, which the community is aware of, you seem to be condoning his behavior. This is very confusing for the students and community.”

Katherine Grant-Erickson said in an email Ertl should be “made an example of what NOT to do.”

She stated in an email that there should be some repercussions.

Tony Massaros, administrative services director, said Ertl was “up-front” with school officials about the situation and the district intends to continue his employment.

Ertl is one of about 40 or 50 district employees not represented by a union and earns $101,275 annually under his contract that expires June 30.

Massaros said Ertl’s contract does not automatically roll over and will be included among the non-affiliated employee contracts the board will eventually consider, likely after it negotiates union contracts.

District employees under a non-affiliated contract may be terminated when it expires but requires the district provide  six-month notice.

Massaros said the district did not learn of the arrest until Ertl came forward.

He said background checks are conducted on all district hires, but are not continued after their employment.

Board Chair Roz Peterson said the board will likely review its policies and contracts and the district will continue to monitor the situation involving Ertl.

She emphasized the incident happened away from work and noted Ertl has been forthcoming and done everything the district asked of him to make sure similar things don’t happen in the future.

“From that standpoint, you have to support the person for doing the right things and getting help,” she said. “He has stayed sober since the incident and I think he should be commended for that. I don’t think someone should be penalized for doing the right things.”

Ertl has also apologized publicly for the incident.

“I very much continue to apologize for my decisions and the actions I made. It is not the way I want Lakeville and Lakeville North to be represented,” Ertl said. “I made some grave mistakes and I have taken action since that very day, the next day, to get my life back on a positive track, and I continue to make those efforts.”

Some district parents are supportive of the district’s position.

Don Moran wrote the board Jan. 9 to express his support for Ertl, noting that while he does not condone drinking and driving, said it is important to remember “we all make mistakes.”

He credited Ertl for seeking treatment, stating that it “speaks to his integrity and desire to do the right thing.”

Moran said he is using the situation as a teachable moment for his children.

“As the son of a recovering alcoholic, I know firsthand how important it is for a person to feel supported and I believe Bob has taken the right steps in his sobriety.”