Janesville teachers pledge money in fundraiser to save staff, programs

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Thursday, April 21, 2011
— Janesville teacher Stephanie Kortyna opened up her wallet Wednesday at Craig High School to save school programs and jobs threatened by deep cuts that the Janesville School District faces in coming months.

Kortyna, who teaches fifth grade at Jackson Elementary School, agreed to pledge 1.5 percent of her weekly salary—an amount equal to the pay raise she’s expecting next year—to support “Save Janesville Schools,” a community fundraiser aimed at retaining employees and programs in the Janesville School District.

Kortyna was one of dozens of district staff that donated at a fund drive set up Wednesday in a hallway at Craig High School. It was the kickoff event for Save Janesville Schools.

In just two hours Wednesday, district staff donated 89 cash gifts worth $31,240 and 50 staff pledged to give an additional $50,442 in gifts next year, according to organizers.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision when you look around and see a lot of your good friends, your colleagues losing their jobs. Anything you can do to save those jobs,” said Kortyna of her donation.

As she signed over part of her paycheck, Kortyna said she was also thinking of her fifth grade students.

“If this (fundraiser) is going to help even one program or even one student, then the effort is worth it,” she said.

Save Janesville Schools, which is made up of teachers, residents and school administrators, is trying to raise as much as $6 million over the next two years to help the district retain employees and school programs in the face a $13.4 million shortfall in next year’s budget. The shortfall could spell layoffs of more than 100 teachers, officials said.

Donations will go to the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, a tax-exempt charity that will receive and invest the donations and distribute the money to the school district. The school board and administration will decide how to use the money, but must apply it specifically to positions and programs that best support district students.

Mike Morgan, a sixth grade teacher at Marshall Middle School, agreed to donate most of his anticipated salary increase next year in hopes the district can retain programs like advanced placement courses to give students an academic advantage.

Morgan is a Janesville native. He pledged even though he’s not sure if his wife, Kathy Morgan, will have a job next year.

Kathy teaches fourth grade at Madison Elementary School, but she received a layoff notice earlier this month, and is waiting to learn whether she could be called back.

“I don’t know how easy it’ll be to give, but I still wanted to give back to the Janesville Schools because I am a product of the district. I am who I am today because of this district,” Morgan said.

Organizers said they hope that district employees and local residents will keep donating throughout the first wave of the fundraiser, which ends June 1, in time to help the school board and the district decide which programs or staff could be retained.

Save Janesville Schools co-organizer Jim Reif said he clings to a simple formula: If donors would pledge $300 for each of the 10,000 students in the district over the next two years, the fundraiser would meet its goal.

“It is do-able,” Reif said.

Last updated: 4:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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