The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 18, 2008

Coach's hiring divides Le Center

LE CENTER — A Le Center School Board vote to hire a controversial coach for the high school’s girls basketball team and boys and girls track team has resulted in one board member’s resignation.

Ann Traxler was one of three School Board members who blocked a school recommendation to renew Scott William Bernard’s contract as the girls volleyball coach earlier this year. It was a close vote that split the six-member board in half, resulting in a 3-3 vote that followed closed-door meetings.

One of the members voting against hiring Bernard, Kathy Novotny, resigned in April. So, when athletic director Ken Helland made a new recommendation to hire Bernard for the basketball and track coaching positions during last week’s meeting, it passed 3-2. Traxler responded by resigning immediately.

Bernard, 36, has been the Le Center volleyball, basketball and track coach for the past three years.

“The liability of that vote is too large for me to continue,” Traxler said Wednesday.

It was Bernard’s past, including a conviction for providing alcohol to an 18-year-old former student and the suspension of his teaching license, that had split the board. That came to light when Traxler explained why she was resigning. She said Wednesday she’s concerned those incidents, which happened while Bernard was teaching in Janesville, could become a liability for the school if something happens while he’s working in Le Center.

Traxler said Bernard’s situation in Janesville wasn’t fully explained when he was hired as a coach three years ago.

Bernard was arrested in July 2004 after a woman called Janesville police and said she was worried about an 18-year-old woman she had last seen at a street dance in New Richland. The former student had been drinking beer with Bernard, the caller reported.

A Janesville police officer reported the woman was clearly intoxicated when he found her at about 6 a.m. the following morning. She and Bernard later told the officer Bernard had bought several beers for both of them at the street dance before driving back to Janesville with the woman as a passenger.

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