Janesville52.6°

Teachers give school board poor grades

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 13, 2008
— About 200 Janesville teachers protested passionately before and during the Janesville School Board meeting Tuesday night.

They said morale is low, which prevents them from giving their best efforts in the classroom.


“Teachers are feeling their jobs are not seen as important and very few people appreciate their efforts,” Craig High School teacher Bill O’Leary told the board.


“It’s difficult to educate students when we do not have a contract and no positive negotiations are apparent,” O’Leary said. “Not only does this affect our present staff, but people will see this district as someplace that does not value their teachers. This idea will make our district less desirable to work for.”


Teachers have been working under the terms of their old contract all school year. They said the school board has rejected their union’s “reasonable offer” for a settlement of the 2007-09 contract.


The school board did not respond, but officials have said they believe they have made fair offers to the teachers.


The teachers marched with signs outside Craig High School before attending the board meeting. The meeting was moved to Craig auditorium because of the large turnout.


Teachers took turns addressing the board and presented a report card in which they gave the board poor marks for their negotiating efforts.


It was an effort to communicate their feelings in hopes of getting back to a situation of trust between the two sides, they said.


But the teachers dished up tough words:


-- “The board is trying to bully us, using public sentiment, into sacrificing even more of our earnings,” said Wendy Haag of Jackson School.


-- “You are not maintaining a quality educational program in Janesville, and this is irresponsible,” said Cecilia Hladky, another Jackson School teacher.


-- “You seem to be willing to tolerate low and increasingly low teacher morale, and I don’t know why. I can’t figure that out,” said Kennedy School teacher Karen Smerlinski.


Franklin Middle School teacher Angela Griffin-Perry repeated the teachers’ contentions that teachers’ good health has benefited district coffers through lower costs to the district’s self-funded health plan.


And teachers have some of the lowest salaries among teachers in the Big Eight Conference, Griffin-Perry said.


“This should not be us against you,” O’Leary said. “Please help us revive the positive feeling there is in this district by giving us a fair contract.”


“Those teachers said everything I wanted to say, and probably better,” Teachers union President Sam Loizzo said afterward.


The rally and speakers were meant to show the board how vested teachers are in their jobs and in making the partnership work between teachers and management, said Jennifer Fanning, co-lead negotiator for the teachers.


Board members met in closed session later that night to discuss the status of negotiations.


The two sides met with a state mediator Monday and plan to do so again next month.


A copy of the teachers’ report card can be seen at www.supportjea.com.



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