Middleton community rallies around Rogeberg

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Brad Rogeberg listens as community members ask for his re-instatement as Middleton's strength and conditioning coach./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Rick Vander Sanden broke down and cried.

Hudson Cleary and K.J. Peterson told stories why Brad Rogeberg meant the world to them.

Parents, co-workers and coaching colleagues sang Rogeberg’s praises.

Roughly 65 community members descended on the Middleton-Cross Plains School Board meeting Monday night asking that Rogeberg be re-instated as the strength and conditioning coordinator at Middleton High School.

Rogeberg, a football coach in the district since 1991 and the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator since 2019, was fired from both jobs in the aftermath of a bullying scandal inside Middleton’s football program last season. Rogeberg did keep his job as a Physical Education—Health teacher.

Former Middleton football coach Jason Pertzborn resigned from both his teaching position at MHS and his football job on Jan. 26. 

“It was pretty cool,” Rogeberg, a 1989 Middleton graduate, said of Monday’s support. “There were a lot of people who either reached out or were here in person tonight.

“And hopefully the district now realizes my involvement in this was pretty minor. At the time, we felt we took care of the (bullying) situation.”

Twelve people spoke on Rogeberg’s behalf, while senior-to-be Vivian Cressman sent a letter supporting Rogeberg. Another 50-plus people packed the District Services Center in a show of solidarity during a meeting that lasted 2 hours, 44 minutes.

“Any time we have students, families, employers and community in our board room, it’s a really great night,” School Board President Sheila Hibner said afterwards. “A board represents the people and the people tonight are those closest to the football program and they were those most profoundly affected.”

While testimonials backing Rogeberg were presented to the school board, Rogeberg’s future will be determined by school superintendent Dana Monogue, principal Peg Shoemaker and athletic director Jamie Sims.

Monogue and Sims sat stoically Monday as citizens gave impassioned pleas for Rogeberg, while Shoemaker wasn’t in attendance. Middleton’s current co-head football coaches Tim Simon and Joe Poehls also did not attend the meeting.

Rogeberg said his next meeting with Middleton’s administration team is July 12.

Those that spoke on Rogeberg’s behalf were both poignant and passionate.

Track standouts Madilyn Vander Sanden and Peterson told stories how Rogeberg went to their WIAA Division 1 sectional meet in May, even though he had been stripped of his strength and conditioning duties a month earlier. Cleary, a standout offensive lineman, said Rogeberg’s first two questions to him were always, “How are you?” and “How are your classes going?”

Rick Vander Sanden, an assistant coach in the program for nearly three decades, was overcome by emotion during his speech. When he resumed, Vander Sanden told a story how Rogeberg saw the best in players when others coaches often wanted to go in a different direction.

And Aimee Passini, the mother of several boys in the program, said: “Students have not lost trust in these coaches. Obviously they are here to support them. They’ve lost trust however in the process and unfortunately in leadership. And to mend that I am asking you to please support your MHS students and your staff starting with the re-instatement of Brad.

“You have the opportunity to model the restorative process and show students it’s OK to re-evaluate a decision and a situation and to make change. It’s exactly what’s needed to happen to rebuilding our community.”

Rogeberg kept his composure throughout, often mouthing the words “Thank you” when speakers finished. He broke down momentarily when his sister, Kari Rogeberg, was an unexpected final speaker of the night.

Afterwards, Rogeberg used the word “roller coaster” to describe his past six months.

“Just being told that, ‘You’re OK. You’re not part of the investigation.’ Then being told that I’m part of the investigation has been tough,” he said. “Then being told my strength and conditioning position will never be taken away from me and then being told it is being taken away from me. It’s just been back and forth and a lot to take in.”

Rogeberg headed home with optimism, though, for two reasons.

First, he was hopeful the large group of supporters will be heard. Second, Rogeberg and Monogue have met twice in the last six months — including once last week — and Rogeberg believed those meetings were highly productive.

“Her and I sitting down and talking was huge,” Rogeberg said of Monogue. “She did say, ‘Let’s sit down and discuss this,’ so I commend her for that. We’ll see what happens, but I’m hopeful.”

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