Random Reports on Rose City school board and teachers, no comments from me added yet.
The board member John Janczewski speaks of is Mike Eagan,
The Herald, through the Freedom of Information Act, obtained the letters of support for Erickson, written by Toni Erickson, Carol Rau, Sally Campbell, Amy Huber Eagan, Harriett Coe, Marilyn Glover, Sandi Lee, Kathryn Weber, Kathleen Sheel and Kathleen Palmer. Most asked for a reduced sentence.
“Neal made a mistake,” writes Campbell in her letter. “He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake and ended it years before someone anonymously sent something to the authorities which began this legal process.”
“I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case,” writes Amy Huber Eagan. “I am also hoping that he can stay remanded to custody in the Ogemaw County Jail and not be sent to a prison facility. My advice would be to use him! He is a certified teacher and could be used for tutoring in the jail, running a GED program, or assisting in whatever education related programs there is need for. Allow him to share his knowledge and skills in a useful, viable, and meaningful way.”
“Neal has plead (sic) guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” writes Coe. “This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends. He has been candid and conveyed his action to his family, friends and co-workers.”
Baumgartner said at the sentencing that he couldn’t believe the support for Erickson.
“I’m appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around, in this case, you,” he said.
“What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” Baumgartner added.
The family also had the letters “YWP” and “ITY” spray painted on the side of their house, which Janczewski thinks mean “you will pay” and “I told you.”
Lt. Melvin Matthews, post commander for the Michigan State Police Post in West Branch, said the fire is being ruled as arson. He said evidence gathered at the scene is being analyzed by the MSP crime lab, and new leads gathered since the incident occurred are being investigated.
The Janczewskis believe it was someone responding to their outspokenness against several West Branch-Rose City teachers and a board member, who they said publicly supported Neal Erickson, a former WB-RC teacher who recently pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct against the Janczewski’s son.
School ‘adored’ Erickson
The issue has roiled a small town where everyone knows everyone else.
The assistant prosecutor in the criminal case sits on the school board. Lori Janczewski is a teacher aide who had worked beside Erickson for 10 years.
It’s like a nasty family fight that has spilled out of the home.
“This is getting out of hand,” said Ellen Scott, whose two grandchildren are students. “They are just out for blood. To me, this is a mob of haters looking for vengeance.”
The controversy began with a 7-year-old photo. The obscene picture of Janczewskis’ son when he was 14, was anonymously emailed to the school board and superintendent.
The Michigan State Police contacted the son, now 21 and a student at Western Michigan University, and learned he had sent the photo to his eighth-grade teacher in 2006.
The son said he and the teacher, Erickson, had a relationship that summer that involved eight to 10 sexual encounters at the teacher’s home.
Erickson, 38, who taught science and computers to seventh and eighth graders at Rose City Middle School, pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.
Before the sentencing, six teachers and two retired ones wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency.
None of the teachers condoned what Erickson did. Instead, their letters focused on his 17 years of teaching, describing his popularity with students and teachers, how hard he worked and how often he volunteered for school functions.
Amy Eagan, who teaches history and psychology at Ogemaw Heights High School, wrote that no one has done more than Erickson for children, the middle school or the community. She is married to Mike Eagan, the board member.
“You would have a hard time finding a student who attended the Rose City schools that does not adore and respect Neal,” she wrote.
The mounting pressure for Eagan to resign crystallized during a special board meeting Monday night.
Inside the high school auditorium, the crowd of 180 hooted and hollered at Eagan. One person mimicked him with a baby voice. Another sounded an air horn several times.
Of the 48 audience members who spoke during the five-hour meeting, all but a few were against Eagan. Several talked to him about stepping down.
“You are tearing our community up. Do you realize that?” asked Carol Smith, whose daughter attends the high school.
At one point, the meeting was interrupted by John Janczewski, who was sitting in the front row.
“My son was molested,” he yelled at Eagan. “Wipe that smirk off your face.”