Jill Sorbie, a southeastern Wisconsin native and a longtime educator, stressed Wednesday a need for transparency in the Delavan-Darien School District.
Sorbie was named the district’s interim superintendent at a special meeting Tuesday night. She will replace outgoing Superintendent Bob Crist on July 1. Sorbie will inherit a district in financial turmoil: It faces a shrinking district staff, massive layoffs and the closing of Darien Elementary School.
In a brief conversation with The Gazette on Wednesday night, Sorbie detailed her vision for the district’s future, which includes increased financial openness and new avenues of public communication.
“I want to re-image the district in our community,” Sorbie said. “I think the first thing is that we have to continue this journey ... in this student growth and this achievement. We have great things happening here. My kudos list that I give every board meeting … is six (items) long right now.”
Sorbie has taught for 20 years, leading classes from elementary school to college, she said.
Raised in Kenosha County, Sorbie graduated with a degree in education from UW-Whitewater before earning a master’s in education leadership from UW-Madison. Sorbie eventually received an educational doctorate in curriculum instruction and assessment from Walden University in Minnesota.
Sorbie said her job will be to sell the district’s achievements to the public. She said she has “lots of thoughts as to how this can happen,” including events at restaurants around the community to hear from residents.
But Sorbie also called for “fiscal responsibility” and demanded greater financial transparency with the district’s voters. In a meeting with the district’s business manager, Anthony Klein, Sorbie said she asked, “How are you going to help me be more transparent with our community?”
The district’s failed referendum in April was “absolutely” a blow to the district, Sorbie said. But she noted that selling a referendum to a community is tough—and she said she will push for a new referendum in November.
“Nobody likes higher taxes,” Sorbie said. “I’m a homeowner myself. I don’t want to have higher taxes if I don’t have to. However, there is a need to have more money for the district. There is a need for trying to re-establish the programs. ... There is a need to come back to a healthy student enrollment.”
Teachers plead with school board
Six of the 39 teachers who received non-renewal letters from the Delavan-Darien School District petitioned the school board Wednesday night, pleading with it to reconsider the decision not to renew their contracts for the 2018-19 school year.
Aside from accepting two teachers’ resignations, the board did not reverse any non-renewal decision. It voted unanimously to issue final notices to the teachers. School board President Jeff Scherer said the board has to issue the final notices by May 15.
During the four-hour closed-session meeting, the six teachers filtered in one by one to pitch their cases to the board. Most left the board room visibly distraught.
One teacher, who The Gazette profiled April 29 after she gave birth to a son two days after receiving her letter, read a note to the board. She provided The Gazette with a copy of the note.
“As a teacher, a mother of future students, a taxpayer, and community member of the Delavan-Darien School District, I have a great concern about the future of the district,” the letter read. “I had, and still hold out hope, to make this district my forever career, my home, and to help make the positive change that is possible for the Delavan-Darien School District.”
In each non-renewal letter given out last month, the district wrote that teachers may request a conference with the board within five days of receiving their letter.
Scherer said more layoffs are expected with non-teacher district staff, but he added that some of the non-renewals could be hired back in the future, depending on the district’s enrollment and financial standing.