3/4/2011 1:09:00 PM LUHS, AV-W staff will make up for lost time in the classroom Administration, board members, staff look to move on
Gary Olson, a mathematics teacher at LUHS, addressed school board members Monday night.
Laurel Carlson photograph
Olson addresses board
"Dear board members, administration, community members and taxpayers:
"Dealing with change: It has become more evident to me with the recent events taking place in Madison that change can be a catalyst for crisis. As an educator, I recently made a choice to not be in school a week ago Friday. This was a difficult choice for my wife and myself. We both understood the potential ramifications of this decision. Many families would need to find day-care for their young children, taxpayers would become very frustrated by the fact that we were not in school and, most importantly, the students of our buildings would lose a day of instruction.
"From the day the controversy started, I began to read news articles to become more educated on both sides of the bill. I understand, personally, that something needs to be done and I understand that local businesses have suffered here for many, many years.
"I became a teacher because I love working with kids, teaching math and coaching on the football field. And as a teacher, I receive a benefit package that is part of being a teacher. This package was there when I started, and people in the community have made comments to me like, 'It is about time that you got what is coming to you.' These attacks have come from people whom my wife and I thought were our friends.
"I realize that something needs to be done to repair the financial problems of this state. We are ready to find ways to continue to reach our financial goals if this bill goes through.
"Despite everything that is going on, we need to do what is best for our students and schools. What is best for all of us is to work together to make our schools great.
"In dealing with this change, my main concern is not the economic impact of this bill on my family. I'm very worried about the divide this is having in our community. This cannot become small business owners versus teachers. Many people have worked very hard in this community to promote the positive things that are going on in our schools ... Wheels in the Woods and Loop Around the Lake are just a couple of these events that have been created to help bring our communities together in the pursuit of quality education. We cannot let this bill and the politics that surround it divide our communities.
"Many of us made the decision on Feb. 18 to not be in school. I stand behind my decision and I am ready to move forward with whatever happens. I learned about democracy and I saw it in action. I am a teacher and proud of it.
"To my students, I will be there for you today, tomorrow and in the future. To the taxpayers, I will go to work each day from here on out and give the students of our community everything that I have. To the community, I will continue to work with you to help move our schools from good to great. This is my commitment to the students of this school. I feel we are on this path and will not allow this bill or any bills to come in the way of making our school and our community a great place. If we are going to attract workers, small businesses and families to this area, we must come together.
"I was raised in this community and I am a product of its schools. After teaching in Neenah, Wisc. for five years, I moved back to this area to raise my family. I know firsthand how amazing it is to grow up in this community. I love this school and I am dedicated to helping young students grow.
"Let's let the groups in Madison settle this debate. That is what they are hired to do. Let's put aside the politics and focus on what is really important. I am ready to move forward and do the job that I was hired to do. Teachers cannot do it without the support of all the shareholders.
I cannot speak on behalf of all the members, but I feel that this staff will be in school each and every day from here on out through the entire process of this bill. This is our commitment to the students of this building and the taxpayers of this community. We know and understand the frustrations that many taxpayers now have toward us teachers. We are still the same people that work very hard each day to teach the students at LUHS.
"I look forward to the challenges in front of us. Without change, nothing great happens. If you don't like something, change it, and if you can't change it, then you need to change the way you think about it.
"Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of my family and as a teacher in this building.
"Here's to moving forward, the great motto of our state."
Call it a "walk-out," a "sick-out," a "demonstration," a "political statement" or call it "practicing democracy."
Whatever the term, nearly two weeks after mass staff absences caused a day-long closure of area schools, two boards of education have decided on plans for remediation.
Staff members at Arbor Vitae-Woodruff and Lakeland Union will be required to make up the lost time in one way or another and staff at LUHS will also receive letters of reprimand from their district.
Classes for students in the Lakeland area, including AV-W, LUHS, Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk, Lac du Flambeau and North Lakeland, were cancelled Friday, Feb. 18, due to a high number of staff members who notified the district they would be absent that day.
While some teachers attributed their absence to sickness, most all understood the day off was in protest of Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget repair bill. The bill would strip unions of the right to collectively bargain over anything but wages, among many other provisions.
The proposed bill has caused much polarization at the state and local level, and The Lakeland Times has published more than 20 letters to the editor over the past two weeks relating to the contentious policy.
Members of the AV-W board met and took action Monday morning, after convening in closed session Feb. 21 for discussion.
"We did meet and we had quite a bit of lengthy discussion," board president Scott Cisney said Monday morning.
Board members decided because school staff was technically paid for their absence Feb. 18, requiring staff to work an unpaid day would help balance the scales.
Because AV-W is an Expeditionary Learning school, staff members are required to attend an Expeditionary Learning session in June. Cisney said this training was originally budgeted as an additional expense outside the regular contract, but that the mandatory training day will now be unpaid.
Superintendent Rick Morgan said only the first day of the two-day, on-site training session will be unpaid.
"We are requiring that training day to be an unpaid day," Cisney said.
He said the "swap" means in the long run, taxpayers are not "paying for Friday."
The recommendations for action, made by Morgan, were unanimously approved by board members. All members were present for the meeting except treasurer Jack Jurries.
LUHS board members decided Monday evening in closed session how they would deal with the absences of teaching staff on Feb. 18.
Board president John Lisowski allowed members of the public to address the board early in the meeting.
Carol Cady, who previously voiced her concerns to the board Feb. 21, shared many questions and concerns that night.
Cady asked that teachers not be paid for their absences, that a "severe" reprimand be put in their file, that no negotiations be done until a state budget is passed and that the board would communicate openly with the public.
She also wanted assurance that a similar event would not be tolerated, that no discussion of teachers' ideology trickle into the classroom and she inquired what actions were grounds for termination.
"I was wondering what it took to dismiss a teacher," Cady said.
"The confidence in our school is at an all-time low due to the walk-out. How do you begin to communicate with the taxpayers to rebuild the confidence that our school's main focus is on the students? Will there be a make-up day?"
The board's decision later on would answer at least some of her questions.
Also present to address the board was LUHS mathematics teacher and football coach Gary Olson
Olson was the only staff member to go on the record that night, and his remarks were addressed not only to board members and administration, but to community members and taxpayers (A full transcript of Olson's address may be found in this edition of The Lakeland Times).
Board members entered closed session at the end of their regular, monthly board meeting agenda, and announced their decision after reconvening once more into open session.
"While we were in closed session, the board took action to approve a Feb. 18, 2011, school make-up plan, which was recommended by the district administrator," board president John Lisowski said.
"Also included in that make-up plan will be a letter of reprimand in the personnel files of all ... 66 LUHSEA [Lakeland Union High School Education Association] members."
"The board did not dock them in pay," district administrator Todd Kleinhans said Tuesday.
At least, not at first.
Instead, the board is giving teaching staff an opportunity to make up the face-to-face, student instructional time they missed by being absent Feb. 18 - time requirements which Kleinhans said staff members are contractually bound to fulfill.
"The make-up plan is going to recover the lost instructional time," he said.
To accomplish that end, staff members will teach for a full day Friday, April 8, which was originally scheduled to be an early release day.
Professional development originally scheduled for the second half of the April 8 early release day will be moved to Saturday, April 9.
Finally, between March 1-June 4, staff members must put in additional four hours of instructional time with students. Kleinhans said to achieve this, teachers will give up prep time to substitute teach in the school, work in one of the school's academic labs or otherwise make up the missing time.
Kleinhans said if the missing instructional hours are not made up by the end of the school year, staff will be "docked pay for whatever time they're short."
The administrator said the staff, by contract, is required to put in 180 days of instructional time, and "the board felt strongly that the instructional time needed to be made up."
Board members also decided all 66 members of the LUHSEA will receive a letter of reprimand in their personnel file.
Kleinhans said the letter's purpose is to inform the union and its employees that the district does believe there was a violation of the current master contract, and that any similar events in the future will result in further discipline.
Not everyone was completely satisfied with the board's final decision, including member Joe Handrick.
"I just want to say to the public that, respecting the board's opinion, I do dissent with that action," he said Monday night.
Handrick said the reason for his dissent is because the board is making all 66 staff members perform the make-up day, including those who had pre-approve absences.
While it remains to be seen how long the stalemate in Madison will continue, some school administrators, board members and teachers hope to move forward.
Cisney said he hopes the decisions made by the AV-W board will give the district some closure and be a turning point to getting things "back on course" and to "get back to the students."
Morgan said he is looking forward to a "continued focus on the students."
Kleinhans also said he hopes his district's decision will help the school move forward.
Olson said the time has come to move forward and focus on what is important.
"Many of us made the decision on Feb. 18 to not be in school. I stand behind my decision and I am ready to move forward with whatever happens," Olson said.
"Let's put aside the politics and focus on what is really important. I am ready to move forward and do the job that I was hired to do."
Laurel Carlson may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2011
Article comment by:
Hats off to the teachers and board of AV-W for coming to a decent arrangement. To bad for the teachers at MHLT. They don't have a rational Admin and board to cool the tension on both sides of this charged issue.