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Rhinelander English teacher's background check missed important items


RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Rhinelander High School English teacher that is now facing drug and theft charges will not be back in the classroom. That’s according to District Administrator Kelli Jacobi. 35-year-old Joshua Juergens has been suspended from all school activities.

Jacobi says Juergens was in his first year with the district, and was hired after they received “glowing references” before they hired him. Jacobi says they knew of a charge for marijuana use as a teenager, but no other significant problems. “We were aware that there was something more recent. We had only the details that showed up in a background check, which did not show the whole story.”

Superintendent Jacobi says they were aware of Juergens’ driver’s license being suspended, but that would not have impacted his ability to teach. She was not happy to hear about the multiple charges of operating motor vehicles after suspensions and revocations, disorderly conduct charges and criminal damage to property charges Juergans has accumulated in the past three years. Jacobi believes they show disturbing character issues the district was not aware of.

Joshua Juergens is now charged with multiple felonies after officers found over sixty marijuana plants, prescription drugs that were not his, and computers that belong to the Rhinelander School District and other individuals.

The school is still doing a complete inventory, but Jacobi believes police have recovered the items the School is missing. “We’re looking at approximately $9,000 worth of computers and other equipment.”

The Superintendent will be meeting with the School Board Monday, and she believes they will choose to terminate Juergens and seek his replacement. “I will be meeting with the board Monday night in closed session, bringing them up to speed on what has been happening with the information that we have been able to gather in our own investigation. The board will then decide where we go from here.” She added, “He will not be back. We will be (having) a long term sub in here until we can meet with the board, and the board can make the decisions it needs to make, and then we will follow through on whatever their directives are, which I would assume would be posting the position and looking for a new English teacher.”

Jacobi says the High School Principal met with Juergens’ 9th through 12th grade classes to explain what was happening, and to let them know the school would be safe and that Juergens has some serious issues to deal with in the courts and would not be back in class. A letter was also sent to parents.

Joshua Juergens has a small claims judgement against him for $10,143 from a man in Dane County for undisclosed reasons. It’s unknown if Juergens was trying to raise money with the equipment and drugs.

Juergens will make his initial appearance on the new felony charges in Oneida County court at 1:00 p.m. Thursday.

(Superintendent Kelli Jacobi's interview can be heard on our website, here.)