Newsletter #2: Aug 17, 2014

Still More Teachers Resign
At tomorrow’s school board meeting, the agenda shows that the WGSD school board will accept several more staff resignations. With each month we have watched some of WGSD’s best employees resign to take jobs elsewhere. Click the graph on the right to get the big picture of teacher resignations in WGSD.

The graph above was created using staff data provided by the Waterford Graded School District. The data does not include teacher retirements, administrative resignations or administrative retirements. However, many recent retirees have shared that if the school climate were different they would not have retired when they did. While it is true that many districts around the state have experienced higher than normal rates of resignation, I am aware of none that have experienced percentages as high as WGSD. Even in West Allis, where according to the Journal-Sentinelthe Superintendent “suddenly retired” after a series of resignation letters were written to Board members, the rates are not as great. The flurry of letters began after a West Allis teacher sent a 4 page letter of resignation to his school board and then shared it with his friends and colleagues. You can read the 4 page letter here.

For those of you who have “Liked” the Facebook version of WGSDMeetings, you know that the former District Administrator, recently eliminated one of the District’s two LMS positions (Library Media Specialists). Watch video #5 of that meeting where Tom Hoffman raises concern about the workload that would then have to placed on the sole LMS. The District said they had it covered because of the “excellent skills” of their current LMS. Two weeks later, that excellent LMS, Rachel Harmeling, resigned and accepted a job out town (Mrs. Harmeling lives in Waterford). With school starting in two weeks the WGSD will now scramble to hire another LMS who will be responsible for serving all 4 WGSD buildings (previously the two LMS served two buildings each).

The Board’s Response is Top Secret
While the District Administrator has not admitted that there is a problem, the Board appears to have acknowledged that a problem does indeed exist in WGSD. The Board has taken action by hiring not just one, but two outside agencies to evaluate the staff climate and determine why so many teachers and other staff are resigning. This action was taken after 3 hours of closed session discussion at the July 21st school board meeting. This move by the Board was the direct result of many community members voicing their concern at the June 23rd school board meeting.

Unfortunately, the board has almost completely shut out the community from the process they are following. We do not know which companies will be hired or how those companies have proposed to evaluate the school climate. In clear violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings law, the district has ONLY held discussion in closed session. I raised this concern at the conclusion of the August 11th special school board meeting to no avail. After I turned the camera off, board member Dan Jensen told me that if I don’t like it I should sue the school board. I have tried to appeal directly to Bob Kastengren, Board President, with this email, but have not yet received a response.

For those who are not aware of the laws regarding government meetings, rest assured that the school board has no legal right to discuss this issue in closed session. Most everything that could be related to an evaluation of the district climate, or the bid proposals from competing vendors, must be discussed in open session because the courts have determined it is in the best interest of the community. The open meetings law is not complicated and the rules related to closed session requirements for competitive bids are outlined on a single page – page 21, of the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Guide.

Four Year Old Kindergarten – Next Steps to be Determined on Monday
Assistant District Administrator, Kathy Hoppe, presented the results of her research on 4K programs in nearby districts (see video #4 from the August 11th Committee meetings). The board is currently split on the 4K model for the 2015-16 school year (see video #4). Dan Jensen and Doug Schwartz favor an “in-district” model where 4K classes are held only in the existing district buildings. Dawn Bleimehl and Tom Hoffman favor the “community model” which allows parents to choose between a qualified community 4K classroom or a district 4K class. Bob Kastengren appeared to favor the “in-district” model due to liability issues, but he did not offer an explanation as to why a majority of Districts around the state still operate under the community model or why it is the model preferred by DPI. Dan Jensen wanted a vote to take place immediately following the committee meetings, but the other 4 board members wanted to wait until Monday, August 18th, at the regularly scheduled meeting in order to have their questions answered and to allow for additional community input. Monday is your chance!

What You Can Do
It is hoped that concerned parents and community members will attend Monday’s meeting to hear how the current school board plans to respond to numerous staff resignations, their violation of open meetings law, and the models being considered for the implementation of 4K in 2015-16. The meeting starts at 6:30 PM on Monday, August 18th, in the Evergreen Elementary school cafeteria. Community members are welcome to share their input during “Citizen’s Input” that begins approximately 30 minutes into the meeting. For those who can not attend, you can help by sending an email with your concerns to the full school board and by “sharing” on Facebook related posts from the WGSDMeetings web site.

Thank you,
Matt Kranich

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