Mike Sprinkel’s Elmbrook personnel file

Let’s reiterate that I am not on the district’s list of happy people to embrace. I also want to make it very clear that I am very grateful my youngest has not endured any unusual treatment because of her mother’s inquisitive nature. She has educators that like her very much, and they indicate they will protect her. So far there’s no reason to be concerned. It’s hard to know how far to push on some stuff, but it feels like there’s room to get to the bottom of this, so I’m going to keep trying.

This isn’t so much about Mike Sprinkel as it is about Elmbrook and the way they hire. Mike Sprinkel is simply the last example of things gone wrong in the district. As we discussed, there was another teacher arrested and later convicted from Wisconsin Hills with similar details.

When I arrived the other morning, the papers were copied separately and in a rubber band. There was still a bill for $36.00 on top. Christine Hedstrom, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, told me they would need to charge me for the copies because the district had to redact some information. I said no, that wouldn’t work and stood up to leave. (There is no way I’m going to start dropping $36 to get information.) She stopped me and said she’d waive the charges. I took the papers into a larger room with a small table and started through them.

There were 120 pages. The first few dealt with a ruling that had just come through this month on unemployment. Sprinkel had applied for and received unemployment, but the district contested. A final ruling reversed the original order and demanded a return of $2,130. Also there was a letter dated January 21 from Hedstrom to Sprinkel indicating that he was being put on unpaid suspension and that his benefits would end January 31.

On January 22 there was a licensing form from the state indicating the suspension because of charges. There was a line that asked, “Has the school district conducted any investigation regarding the allegation?” The district replied no. The charge stems from Louisiana, so I can accept that answer.

There was another condition the district had raised early into the discovery of Sprinkel’s charge where they asked students to come forward with information. I do have one specific incident where East Principal Brett Bowers refused to submit a complaint a student made. Obviously, since the student is a minor, I’m not going there. Trust me or don’t – your call. I am unhappy with Bower’s response.

I did find what I was looking for specifically, but since I’d like to keep working on it, I’m holding that close. There was one thing in that file (completely unrelated to the incident) that surprised me.

Did you know that educators are paid a separate stipend if they tend a study hall? I thought by contract teachers had x number of teaching hours, x number of planning hours, and x commitments outside of teaching. Using Sprinkel as an example, it seems that in some years (semesters?) he received a stipend for study hall and stipends for coaching.

Also, there had been one review of his teaching performance and that was in 2001.


Sprinkel started in August of 2000. The full resume including references and application were in the file. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THE DISTRICT CONTACTED THESE REFERENCES. That flat blew me away. So I asked again. Hedstrom’s reply:

There are no files or references obtained by the district related to Mike Sprinkel prior to his being hired other than what is currently in his personnel file. [Note – there were none in the file I was given.] This speaks specifically to any reference checks that were made prior to Mr. Sprinkel’s initial employment in Elmbrook. If you were looking for letters of recommendation that were provided by Mr. Sprinkel as part of his initial application, please note that they were redacted pursuant to State Stats. 19.36(10)(d), which states in part, the authority shall not provide access to records containing the following information…letters of reference…

I’m trying hard to find a way around this conclusion, but it appears that Elmbrook didn’t check his references.


  1. Wasn’t that the point of the renegotiated contracts where teachers picked up study halls (which was written into their contract) when they got rid of the study hall supervisors?

    So i’m guessing this was prior to that policy change.

    Not checking references, that’s just great. More evidence that Matt Gibson’s administration is corrupt and incompetent. I’ve heard more rumors about his retirement.

  2. Kathryn says:

    There was a really alarming series of AP articles about schools failing to check references, or worse, not reporting accurately when they fired someone. JS did not carry the whole series, but it was on line.

    I think this is the whole series strung together:

  3. Good point Shawn. The piece was dated 12/06/01 – that would be before the change I suppose.

    When did the change take place? (And thanks for your help here.)

  4. I know it was with the contract negotiations which took place for the beginning of last school year.

  5. I think the coaching stipend is $2,800 for a school year if I am correct.

  6. Dave Frank says:

    Sorry this is the lawyer in me. I kind of live for this stuff. Here is what Wis Stat 19.36(10)(d) says:

    (10) Employee personnel records. Unless access is specifically authorized or required by statute, an authority shall not provide access under s. 19.35 (1) to records containing the following information, except to an employee or the employee’s representative to the extent required under s. 103.13 or to a recognized or certified collective bargaining representative to the extent required to fulfill a duty to bargain under ch. 111 or pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement under ch. 111:
    d) Information relating to one or more specific employees that is used by an authority or by the employer of the employees for staff management planning, including performance evaluations, judgments, or recommendations concerning future salary adjustments or other wage treatments, management bonus plans, promotions, job assignments, letters of reference, or other comments or ratings relating to employees.

    So it appears that they may have checked his references, but if they did you wouldn’t see them.

  7. Why wouldn’t they say they did, but I can’t see them? I’ve asked repeatedly.

  8. Dave Frank says:

    I would be worried the disclosure of yes or no might violate the statute because it could be construed as “Information relating to…letters of reference.” But hey, that’s just me. By the way that opinion is worth exactly what you just paid for it.

  9. So, it’s in the district’s best interest to ignore the fact that I’ve openly speculated no references were checked. It’s better to assume no references were checked than offer an explanation themselves.


  10. Kathryn says:

    Maybe not best interest, but obligation.

  11. Dave Frank says:

    Agreed, and let’s face it, if they make one false move this guy could sue them. Why risk it when they know they are going to have to fire him if he is convicted. Keep in mind he might not get convicted and he might want his old job back. Pretty tough spot to be in.

  12. So you say. I guess I’ll add an employment specialist to the list of calls I need to make.

  13. You know, I was thinking while I was folding laundry, and I’ve decided that I’m going to reject your argument for now, Dave.

    For one, I have the names and home phone numbers for 8 references on his resume. Work addresses and phone were also included, but I didn’t write those down. This seems to counter your earlier point that nothing can link to the references.

    Next, open records law suggests that you should acknowledge a record exists, even if you must redact most of the record. They could have provided a document or check list with the date the reference was checked and the signature of the person checking while all other items were redacted and fulfilled both sides of the law.

    I disagree that the district even acknowledging that they checked a reference is a violation of the law you quote.

  14. Cheri M. says:

    Did you sign into the Senior Lounge as Yuri?
    And more importantly, did you bring pretzels?

  15. Kathryn says:

    Not bad for a washerwoman. You go girl!

  16. Cheri M. says:

    God help me! How did I end up with a GT kid? When she had an assignment to write a new inscription for the Statue of Liberty, I suggested the statue was beckoning, “This way to the toga party!!” Somehow that wasn’t incorporated into her final copy…

  17. Yuri was in fact himself a senior. He’s been sent to the corner. His tougher side is always welcome.

    As long as he washes his hands first.

  18. Kathryn says:

    This way to the rest room. Enough with the potty jokes already.

  19. Ah, Mo-oom!

  20. Judicial error, sympathetic jury after no plea, photoshop…anything could happen.

  21. Dave Frank says:

    Dan, I am not a prosecutor, nor do I play one on TV but the child enticement claims can be pretty tricky from speaking with my friends who have prosecuted those cases. To be honest ,I haven’t followed the specific details of his case so I don’t know how strong the evidence is.

    Cindy, I don’t do much open records work so you probably know more the subject than me. However, I wouldn’t blame the district for being extra careful here until his case is resolved and his employment status finalized. The last thing they want is a lawsuit with him. Lawyers are expensive…or so I’m told.

  22. True that!

  23. “Mike Jr.”

    Priceless, Dan, priceless!

  24. Mike Sprinkel is a childhood friend of Joe Schroeder, former Elmbrook administrator. perhaps this is why no references were checked.

  25. I verified the comment above with Joe Schroeder today. He and Mike Sprinkel did attend high school together.

  26. I stumbled across this blog searching the internet and felt compelled to say something. Though I live in Florida now and have nothing to do with your school district I am a parent and also grew up with Mike Sprinkle.

    I have to say that even if your school district had checked Mikes background I highly doubt they would have found anything suspicious and since nothing else has surfaced since his arrest I have to believe that to be true.

    If Mike did in fact commit this crime I must assume that he either just started this behavior or was just never caught but did keep it out of the school and strictly on the internet.

    If Mike is guilty I agree that he must pay for the crime.

  27. I Teach says:

    If teachers take an extra assignment over the requirements( such as a study hall), they are paid extra

  28. Curious George says:

    Dear “I Teach”,
    If teachers take an extra assignment such as flogging bloggers, are they paid extra?

  29. anonymous says:

    they didn’t check his references because he was one of joe schroeder’s best friends……that would be who brought him into the district….. it’s a fact….from the inside…anonymous (i have a job to keep)

  30. Yes, Joe confirmed that above. Sadly, Elmbrook has really made some hiring mistakes.

  31. i had mike as a teacher and he was a cool guy and everything, but thats messed up that he could get in that easily. someone should file a law suit against the district

  32. We can all snicker a little – the last comment came from the Elmbrook district IP. Someone is not exactly using all those expensive computers in the way the district intended.

    Thanks for the comment, though.

  33. Tom Landry says:

    So I jus found out about this and its not kool. The worst thing about is my old man worked with the guy… well find out next mmonth forsure if hes going to jail or not n i hope he does.