By JIM MISUNAS
The victim saw Mike Burgan, St. John High School principal, at a 2001 junior college basketball game and froze.
Thirteen years after Burgan was convicted in Mitchell County court on eight misdemeanor counts, all the memories of her illicit 1986 phone call came flooding back.
Burgan was sentenced on eight misdemeanor counts — six charges of indecent solicitation of a child and two counts of harassment by telephone involving adults. He served three years of probation in lieu of a three-year jail term because of a Mitchell County conviction in 1988 at Beloit Junior High.
“I shrunk in my seat. It was so emotional to see his face,” she said. She was nervous that Burgan could’ve possibly recognized her from her junior high school days.
The woman phoned the Kansas State Board of Education and questioned how Burgan could be working as a school administrator after being convicted of criminal charges against school-age children.
“I told a person from the State Board of Education that he was working in a school environment,” she said.
She was told the laws at the time and the level of crime didn’t specify that a teacher convicted would automatically lose a teaching license.
“The State Board of Education failed us,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he was working at a school.”
Back in 1988, she believed Burgan would not be able to work in an environment with school-age children.
“It was a relief he would not be able to do that again. It was a surprise to me because we were told he would never work with kids again.”
When the victim received her phone call in 1986, she heard unfamiliar language and words from a teacher who had earned her trust.
“It was shocking and frightening at the time,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. People trusted him and we looked at him like a father figure. You got the feeling he cared about you. I didn’t realize that he was ‘grooming’ students.”
She holds Burgan totally responsible. The two-year investigation by the Beloit police department required phone surveillance to verify where the calls originated.
“I believe there were hundreds of calls,” she said. “It wasn’t a one-time thing or a mistake. He was an adult with a college education who had made a lot of adult decisions in his life.”
She said the life-altering incident made her more cautious and more protective of her own children. She has educated them on such conduct.
“I’m very protective as a parent,” she said.
Fifteen years later, the victim learned that Burgan resigned his position after serving 17 years as St. John’s junior and senior high principal. Burgan worked at Moscow from 1992-95 and at Canton-Galva from 1995-99.
“I was shocked that so many people did not know what had happened in the past,” she said. “People didn’t know about his past.”
St. John’s school district patrons gave Burgan public praise when they heard of his resignation.
“But those people expressed nothing for the victims of what he had done,” she said.
The Kansas State Board of Professional Practices issued a statement to the State Board of Education recommending that the credentials for Burgan being a school administrator not be renewed this spring. The board’s recommendation was apparently based on Burgan’s failure to disclose his criminal conviction on past KSDE applications.
The Kansas State Board of Education adopted regulation changes regarding requirements for a fingerprint based records check. These changes affected veteran educators who have never submitted fingerprints as part of any previous application for a Kansas certificate or license issued by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE).
KSDE licensing language has changed to allow applications to specifically ask applicants whether they have ever been convicted of a crime associated with student-age children.
“Mr. Burgan has held a Kansas teaching license since 1985. In 1988, he pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent solicitation of a child and two counts of making an obscene telephone proposal,” the statement read. “Over the course of the next 27 years, Mr. Burgan submitted numerous applications to KSDE where he failed to disclose the nature of his criminal past. He most recently submitted an application in December 2015. Fingerprints were required with that application and KSDE first became aware of Mr. Burgan’s past.”