Local Views: Superintendent disputes report on Janesville teacher flight

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Karen Schulte
Saturday, December 14, 2013

Errors and misleading statements in a Nov. 24 article regarding the School District of Janesville (SDJ) need to be addressed.

The district strives to retain its best employees. We have excellent employees in all areas, including our teachers. Top accountability scores in the county and among the 15 largest districts in Wisconsin are the result of the work of some of the best employees in the state, and I am proud to say that.

I recommended a monetary reward to all 2012-13 employees who are still employed by the district, except administrators, employees on improvement plans and those who left the district, as many contributed to our recent successes, and the school board granted it.

The Gazette compared the district with Beloit’s as if their teacher resignation rate was much lower than ours. The reality is the Beloit School District reported 7 percent of its teaching staff resigned: we had 8 percent. The percentages are nearly identical.

Janesville Education Association President Dave Parr told The Gazette that teachers are leaving the district due to low morale. The district has five years of data on employee satisfaction that dispute Parr’s statement. The Gazette is familiar with the factual data, yet it chose not to use it.

Parr says more good teachers are planning to leave this year. Is there any factual support for that statement?

Parr said 120 employees left the district. That number is incorrect. Our Human Resource Office provided correct data to The Gazette, but Parr’s inaccurate data was reported.

Regarding exit interviews, we initiated online exit interviews at the request of teachers. Very few were ever filled out. We will be emphasizing face-to-face interviews, but we cannot require them.

The district had one of the best early-retirement plans in Wisconsin, along with generous health benefits. While we still have a great benefit package, we are now going through adjustments similar to what other districts had to do two years ago when their contracts ended.

Our teachers continued to receive raises over the last four-year contract while other districts had to implement the Wisconsin Retirement System payment while changing insurance plans. I helped negotiate our contract, and I stand by it, knowing that teachers received a delay in cuts to their salaries.

The SDJ emphasizes accountability. Not everyone chooses to work in an organization where everyone’s work, including mine, is evaluated based on performance. We do not keep low-performing employees. We do not embrace a philosophy of entitlement. Raises at the SDJ are no longer automatic. Employees must produce students who can read, write and do math. We do not make excuses for poverty, ethnicity or disability. Our staff shows us every day that our children can reach their highest potential.

Our employees are amazing! Not everyone will want to work under such a system, but that is the system the school board has embraced and we know works.

Karen Schulte is superintendent of the School District of Janesville. Readers can contact her at the district’s central office, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville WI 53548; phone 608-743-5050; email kschulte@janesville.k12.wi.us.

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