Janesville59.3°

Janesville teacher-staffing plan OK’d

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 14, 2010
— The Janesville School Board voted to keep class sizes low at the elementary schools next year, but they will have to find a way to pay for it.

The 7-2 vote approved a plan for staffing of teachers and aides that will cost about $142,000 more than this year.


The plan would have cost another $179,000, but board member Lori Stottler successfully argued that “contingency” funding to hire three teachers, if needed next year, could be cut.


The plan calls for cutting the equivalent of four teaching positions. Whether any layoffs will be needed depends on retirements, and those are not yet known.


The administration also offered a Plan 2, which would have cut eight teaching positions and increased class sizes.


Board member Peggy Sheridan argued against Plan 2. She noted that student achievement is Job 1 for teachers and that Plan 2 “is going to cut them off at the knees.”


Teachers union President Dave Parr said after the meeting that the board did the right thing.


“The big thing is, it helps student achievement,” Parr said. “Plan 2 cut right to the bone and left no wiggle room.”


The board cut close to the bone last year and ended up having to add a few teachers after the school year began, which meant reshuffling students and teachers, Parr said. Board member Bill Sodemann pushed for Plan 2, warning that this will be another difficult budget year and that the district could find itself with more teachers than it needs next fall and no way to lay them off because of contractual obligations.


“I completely understand why he said that, but as an educator, I think our first job is, how do we meet the needs of our students, and then we’ll see how we pay for that,” Parr said.


Sodemann and DuWayne Severson were the “no” votes.


The plan also helps three families who came to complain to the board Tuesday. The families have children at Jackson School, but they were told their younger siblings coming into kindergarten would have to attend Van Buren School.


The plan approved Tuesday keeps those siblings together at Jackson this fall, officials said.


Retirements and layoffs of teachers remain a question. Teachers have not filed for retirement this year because they lack an early-retirement plan.


The retirement plan sunsetted when the contract ran out July 1, 2009. A new contract has not been settled.


Parr said the teachers and district have drafted a memo of understanding that would allow for a retirement plan. He would not go into details.


The board discussed the teachers contract in closed session Tuesday. Severson declined to discuss the memo of understanding afterward, referring questions to Superintendent Karen Schulte.


Schulte could not be reached for comment.


Parr said that with the memo, he expects 10 teachers to retire, but it’s not clear whether they would retire from the positions needed to avoid layoffs.


The picture is much bleaker in some other districts. Stevens Point has notified about 50 teachers that they may be laid off at the end of the school year, according to press accounts.


Also at the meeting, the board learned about new costs it will have to consider later.


Two positions, at a salaryand-benefits cost of $48,000 each, are the “youth advocate” and “mentoring specialist,” two black men hired to improve academic results for black youth. Those positions have been paid for with a grant that runs out at the end of the year.


Marge Hallenbeck, director of at-risk and multi-cultural programs, said efforts targeting black students resulted in impressive gains on state tests this year.


The TATE Center, which helps at-risk youth and reports successes, also is requesting an extra $38,000 next year.


A key decision the board has not yet made for next year’s budget is how much property tax it wants to levy. That decision is expected in May.



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