Updated: Andover Supt. Did Not ‘Abuse Authority’ in Critique of Hockey Coach, Says School Committee

Andover Superintendent Sheldon Berman’s strongly worded 2016 letter critiquing the coaching practices of Chris Kuchar may have illustrated an error in judgment but was not an abuse of his authority, the School Committee said Thursday.

Berman’s views on Kuchar were voiced in a 2016 letter submitted to Andover High’s athletic director and resurfaced when the state Department of Children and Family Services received complaints that Kuchar and other coaches withheld food and water from players as punishment for losing games.

At the time the letter was submitted, Berman’s son was a hockey player, and Berman now says his anger came from the perspective of a parent—not a school official.

“The question of whether Dr. Berman’s letter was appropriate is a difficult one and, in our opinion, there is no clear right or wrong answer,” the School Committee responded Thursday. “As parents, we all have the right to support our children and to offer criticism, when appropriate, of school staff, be they teachers, coaches or others. We do not lose that right solely because we hold a position of authority within the school system.”

In evaluating Berman’s letter, Andover High Principal Philip Conrad and Athletic Director Don Doucette treated it as a parent letter and discussed his concerns with Kuchar.

Though some in Andover have called for Berman’s dismissal, the School Committee sees no need for disciplinary action. “At a minimum, as he has acknowledged, the letter should not have referred to him as a Superintendent and should have clearly stated that it was written as a parent,” the Committee said. “However, because his letter was not clearly improper or an abuse of his authority…we have concluded that no further action is necessary or appropriate.”

Berman released an official apology Thursday, acknowledging his error in judgment. “I deeply regret that my personal correspondence has caused any measure of controversy in the school district, and I apologize for the distraction,” he said.

Last week, two investigations cleared Kuchar and his ice hockey coaching staff of wrongdoing. Andover’s own investigation first cleared the coaches and, on Friday, the state found the allegations were unsupported. Andover High School Principal Philip Conrad reinstated the coaches.

“In light of this notification, and with the results of our internal investigation in hand, I am reinstating the three varsity hockey coaches immediately,” Conrad said in a statement.