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October 23, 2021

Educator at Heart of SLVUSD Allegations Resigns

During a closed session meeting on Tuesday, the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District agreed to let one of the educators being investigated for sexual misconduct—Teacher 178—resign.

Mark Becker, the SLVUSD Board Clerk, made a motion that was seconded by Trustee Grace Pollak to accept high school social studies teacher Eric Kahl’s resignation. It passed unanimously, 5-0.

“This was a mutually acceptable separation agreement,” SLVUSD Superintendent Chris Schiermeyer told the Press Banner in a statement. “We look forward to getting this resolved and moving forward.”

Schiermeyer declined to say which of the two teachers who’d been placed on leave, William Winkler or Kahl, resigned and he forwarded this publication to the public records request process.

Under the Resignation and General Release Agreement, uncovered by the Press Banner through the freedom-of-information process, Kahl promised not to sue the district in exchange for being allowed to quit of his own accord.

His employment term ends Oct. 15 and his health benefits are to be paid through Oct. 31.

The district, under previous superintendent Laurie Bruton, confirmed both Winkler and Kahl were removed from teaching and placed on administrative leave, in an April 1 letter.

“The parties desire to avoid the time, expense and risk involved with any administrative proceedings and potential litigation, and further desire to settle, once and forever, all disputes arising out of, related to, or in any manner connected with Kahl’s employment with the district,” states the agreement, which was signed Sept. 14 by Kahl, Schiermeyer and Joe Cisneros, the lawyer for Monterey-based Biegel Law Firm representing both teachers who’ve been under investigation, as well as Brian Bock of Southern California firm Bock Law Group.

SLVUSD also specified that if it’s ever asked for a work reference, it must say its policy is to disclose only Kahl’s dates of employment, salary and positions held.

In May, the board voted to part ways with former high school principal and administrator Ned Hearn, who is currently a defendant in a Solano County childhood sex abuse lawsuit involving a former student.

In July, a former middle and high school teacher in the district, Michael Henderson, received six months of home confinement for abusing a 10-year-old girl during private after-school lessons in Felton. Under the terms of a deal, he pled guilty to assault with great bodily injury, but won’t have to register as a sex offender. He is still a free man until Sept. 30, when he must report to start his sentence at home in Washington State.

Accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against several current and past SLVUSD teachers were shared through anonymous social media posts, and in reports made directly to the district.

Leann Anderson, a former SLVUSD student who claims Kahl sexually harassed her, shared screenshots with the Press Banner of a conversation she says she had on graduation day with Kahl while she was a minor. The screenshots show a conversation in which illegal drug use is discussed.

Investigators have been working over the past several months to get to the bottom of the stories.

When informed of Kahl’s voluntary departure by the Press Banner, Anderson said it would take her some time to process its significance.

“The fact that he quit made it more confusing,” she said. “I’m more shocked that it took him this long to step down.”

SLVUSD Board President Gail Levine declined to comment on the teacher’s resignation.

In an interview with the Press Banner, Schiermeyer said when they got the results of the investigation into Kahl, they decided the “mutual agreement” was the best option.

“You do an investigation, and at the completion of the investigation you have things that are either proven substantiated or unsubstantiated,” he said. “You work with your team to find out what the best resolution would be.”

The district’s investigation into Winkler is still ongoing.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn confirmed the agency still has multiple “open investigations” into SLVUSD employees, although no charges have been filed.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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