Delavan split on Walker's image
DELAVAN On one side of Beloit Street was Amy Matthews, a 2009 Delavan-Darien High School graduate, holding a large sign calling him a "traitor" to the school district.
Across the street was Sarah Nieuwenhuis, also a 2009 DDHS graduate, holding a small sign calling him a hometown hero.
"He," of course, was Gov. Scott Walker, a 1986 graduate of DDHS.
Matthews was the organizer of a protest supporting Delavan-Darien teachers that took place Monday night in front of the district's administrative building.
Nieuwenhuis was part of a counter-protest that formed across the street in support of Walker. The groups taunted each other and waved signs at passing cars.
"Union membership is not a right, it's a privilege," Nieuwenhuis said.
The pro-worker group shouted insults about tea parties. The pro-Walker group chanted that they'd been taxed enough, already.
Despite the signs and chants, the Walker supporters were not members of the tea party, said demonstrator Eric Graff of Elkhorn.
The bill Walker signed last week taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers isn't "nearly as bad as their union propaganda says," Graff said, gesturing to the anti-Walker group.
"They will learn to deal just as we all have," Graff said.
Matthews said she would continue to actively protest collective bargaining cuts, although it will likely be in Milwaukee where she is a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Matthews carried a homemade sign Monday with a drawing of Walker's senior picture on it.
Her goal was to support the teachers whose jobs are threatened, even though some of them taught Walker, himself, Matthews said.
"I will keep actively protesting to make sure our voices are heard," she said.
Charlene Staples has worked at Lakeland Health Care Center in Elkhorn for more than 20 years. A union member, she said the bill is about more than collective bargaining rights. Cuts to BadgerCare, changes to the UW System and sluggish salaries for public workers will affect all Wisconsinites, she said.
"A lot of people are going to be losing their jobs," Staples said.
Meanwhile, inside the administrative building, Monday night's regularly scheduled school board meeting was unusually well attended.
Members of the Delavan-Darien Education Association packed the boardroom to show their dedication to working cooperatively with the school board, said Lindsey Smith, president-elect of the teachers union.
Smith spoke to the board on behalf of the association.
"Now, more than ever before, we need to work collaboratively to continue the success of our students and our school district," said Smith, a first-grade teacher at Turtle Creek Elementary School.
No teachers participated in the protests while the Gazette observed the groups.
The Delavan-Darien School Board on Feb. 23 voted to send out preliminary non-renewal notices to 41 teachers.
The move was to cover an anticipated $1.2 million reduction in revenue, District Administrator Wendy Overturf has said.
The school board and teachers union last week agreed to extend until May 15 the deadline for final notification of layoffs.