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Questions Remain After McGrath Principal's Ouster

The school board voted against extending the contract of Kathleen Behrmann, who has worked as McGrath Elementary School's principal since 2004.

*Correction: Patch previously posted an incorrect vote count. One school board member was absent from the meeting. We are very sorry for the error.

Parents of students in McGrath Elementary School recently received an email that noted the school district was in the process of hiring a new principal for the next school year.

On Feb. 17, Superintendent Dr. Charles Penberthy sent the email, which noted that Principal Kathleen Behrmann would be taking another position in the school district.

The email came as a shock to Behrmann, who said she never agreed to a move. She only recently learned about losing her job as principal, Behrmann said.

"Frankly, I thought I was doing an awesome job," said Behrmann, who has worked at McGrath since 2000 and as principal since 2004.

Each year, the Brentwood Board of Education decides whether it should extend each district administrator's contract. During a closed meeting on Jan. 17, the school board voted against extending Behrmann's contract. It was a *1-5 vote, with Dan Williams the lone Behrmann supporter and Michelle Hassemer absent from the meeting.

Chris Jones, who serves as school board president, said he couldn't offer many details.

"I can tell you that we decided not to extend her contract this year," Jones said. "She has done a fantastic job but the board came to a point where we decided it's time for a new direction at McGrath."

"Sometimes, you have to put a new leader in," Jones added.

Behrmann, 59, is hesitant to speak about the situation because she hired a lawyer, but her supporters are willing to speak on her behalf. 

Cindy Manestar, who has a second child at McGrath, has tried to rally parents to attend Tuesday night's school board meeting. Manestar sent emails to other McGrath parents, asking them to show their support for Behrmann at the meeting.

"It's the only voice we really have," said Manestar, who has known Behrmann since 2004. She worked as the PTO president for two years, where she learned a lot about Behrmann, Manestar said.

"We teach our kids character education, and she exemplifies that both inside the school and outside the school," Manestar said. Behrmann has helped a homeless family in the district secure housing, and sponsored a student with low means so he could become a Boy Scout, Manestar said.

It's also personal for Manestar, whose second-grade son requires an individualized education plan. "He's grown leaps and bounds in his academics," said Manestar, who credited Behrmann for her leadership in the school. 

What happens next?

Manestar and the other parents plan to speak during the Brentwood Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. in the Brentwood School District Conference Center. She doesn't know if school board members will change their minds, but she wants to show her support for Behrmann.

Jones hopes the school board will identify McGrath's new principal by next month's meeting, he said. The board also is in the process of filling two other vacant positions: principal of Mark Twain Elementary School, after Karen Smith's retirement at the end of the year, and assistant to the superintendent, since David Faulkner has been hired as district superintendent starting next year.

As for Behrmann, what happens next remains a question.

She's a tenured teacher, so Behrmann may take on another role in the district, Jones said. "She has an option. She'll have to make that decision," Jones said.

J.T. February 22, 2012 at 01:28 AM
In light of the recent Aldermanic embezzlement scandal, it is not entirely out of the question to wonder into whose pockets the School District’s funds have made their way, causing this most recent need for "budget cuts." As much as I would like to trust that the genuine concerns of McGrath parents and staff will be heard and considered regarding the retention of Kathleen Behrmann, I believe that on some level we all know the sad and inevitable truth: School Boards will continue to make misinformed, ignorant and harmful decisions at their leisure, cold and passionless Superintendents will retire with a healthy benefit package at the expense of others, politicians will rob us blind if we let them, and the Kathleen Behrmanns of the world- -the ones who have dedicated their entire life to nurturing and molding our children--will be left to twist in the wind
Ryan Martin February 22, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Folks, I'm very sorry for posting an error about the vote count in the first version of this story. I've now made a correction: "It was a 1-5 vote, with Dan Williams the lone Behrmann supporter and Michelle Hassemer absent from the meeting."
Lou February 22, 2012 at 10:51 PM
If they want to cut the fat out of the budget...loose the assistant to the superintendent's job. In a district this small, one person should be able to handle the job and if not...they hired the wrong person for super!!!
Lou February 22, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Wonder how well the new super gets along with Kathleen???
hoss February 25, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Penberthy has cut assistant prinicpals, but what is the actual status of the current assistant prinicapal at McGarth, has he been offered a prinicipal's contract for next year?

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