Proposed Layoff of

Four Teachers

Triggers Protests


Text Box:     Crowd Packed Cafeteria for Monday Board MeetingText Box:  
 Athletic Director Olson Addressed Board

February 20, 1980 RICE LAKE (WIS.) CHBONOTTPE


 

 


   By unanimous ballots, the Rice Lake school board  Monday night voted to consider the non-renewal layoffs of four teachers and the reduction from full to half-time for a fifth, for the 1980-81 school year.

Declining enrollment, par­ticularly in the high school, was cited as the reason.

The four facing possible layoff are:

Norbert Pintens, high school agriculture; Greg Tinker, high school biology; Mike Popko, high school English, and .James Smith, Lincoln third grade teacher.

A fifth teacher, Randall Zent-ner, senior high vocal instructor, would be reduced to halftime and placed on probation for 1980-81.

In addition, an administrative staff member, Robert Fisher, would be reduced from full to halftime as the district's local vocational education coor­dinator.

Board action took place before a crowd estimated at 350, who crowded the high school cafeteria. The meeting was moved there from the ad­ministration building because of the turnout of students, parents and teachers.

The board set March 10 as the date to act on the proposed cutbacks. At that time, under law, each teacher affected is entitled to a hearing on his im­pending job loss, after which the board would be. compelled to vote on each case.

The matter must be resolved prior to the March 15 deadline for issuance by the board of in­dividual teacher contracts for the coming school year. Signed contracts are returnable by April 15.

Board President Edward J. Coe opened the session by inviting comments from the floor. A total of 20 persons responded, most of them faculty and students.

Speakers were Dolores O'Brien, Ed Olund, Peter Grassmann, Ken Krattiger, Stanley Bergum and Orv Olson of the faculty; students Lori Lemire, Stacy Harms, Lisa Covey, Mary Jo Romportl, Dexter Covey, Diane Vanderport and Carol Schneider; citizens Mary Hoeft, Marge Hasman, Jim Neal, Anita Lawrence, Donald Kodesh, Larry Thome and John Brunclik.

The faculty, particularly, had carefully prepared statements.

Mrs. O'Brien commented, "At a time when there is widespread concern because Johnny can't read and Johnny can't write, it is hard to believe the board would reduce the staff." She praised Popko for his contributions to the English department which she heads.

Olund said his science department class pupil-teacher ratios next year were projected at 21-1, mentioned that often classes grow in the fall as new students move in and others must retake such classes, and that the proposed 21-1 ratio was higher than in River Falls, Barren, Ladysmith and Medford. He praised Tinker as a "great asset" to the school system arid community.

Grassmann presented a peti­tion to the board containing more than 500 signatures of students and faculty calling for reversal of the proposed layoffs as "unfair and unjust."

Krattiger, as music depart­ment head, expressed concern over "the academic attitude" as it relates to many upper class members being allowed to take as few as four classes, so they're

finished by noon. "Schedules are much lighter than ten years ago," he said, and questioned whether there was an over-concern on the board's part "on saving taxpayers' dollars."

Bergum, industrial arts department head, said his department had over the years added offerings and there was "a need to encourage, not destroy them." He enumerated the various duties assigned to Pin-tens, whom he praised for his effectiveness.

Olson, as athletic director, pointed out that the proposed layoffs would affect athletics. He noted Smith was the eighth grade girls' basketball coach, Pintens freshman wrestling coach, Tinker varsity baseball coach and Popko, freshman boys' cage coach.

After 20 speakers had com­mented, Coe closed the public appearances and the board commenced its deliberations.

Supt. Baits presented data to support the cutbacks, stressing that "not once have dollars and cents entered into this discussion and won't tonight." He said the decisions would be based on board policy, adding when in­creases in faculty are due to increased enrollment, "we must expect reductions when the reverse is true."

Baits said the student-teacher ratio this year in the English department was 19.5 to 1 and next year would be 21-1, with the reduction of one position; in science this year, 21.5-1 and next year 23.5-1, with a cut of one position; in ag there would be a drop from the present 19.5 ratio to 19-1, even with the elimination of one position. In vocal music classes, there was a projected drop in students from 97 to 79.

   Balts stated in the past three years total school enrollment had fallen by 354 students and for next year another drop of 86 was projected. The high school enrollment would fall, he said, from the present 1,037 to 1,007.

Coe then called for the balloting and in each case the motions to consider the layoffs March 10 passed by an 8-0 vote. Board member Ruth Ricci was the only, member absent.

 

See PROTEST, Page 5

 

Student Sit-In

Today Halts

HS Classes

A sit-in by the majority of students at Rice Lake high school, protesting the possible layoff of four faculty next year, brought classes to a halt this morning.

The sit-in in the gym was continuing throughout the day and about 1:45 p.m., Gary Buckner, a school board mem­ber, addressed the gathering to explain the board's position.

   Student leaders of the hastily organized effort had met about 1 p.m. with Buckner and with Supt. Eugene Baits, Principal Robert Herzog and Assistant Principal Richard Halverson in Herzog's office at the school.

  This group was composed of Janet Texley, Mark Daniel, Pat | Rankin, David Charron, Michael Neal, Tim Hovde, Troy Parsons, ' Jeff Cronk, Gretchen Gilbertson,

Ted Romportl and Lisa Covey. They had asked that Buckner come to the building and subsequently  persuaded  him  and  Baits   to   address   the   gym gathering so the students could determine whether to continue the ;sit-in Thursday.

 

•Following' their remarks, it was reported by Herzog that the student leaders would address a general assembly at the school at 8:25 a.m. Thursday, to present a statement recommending student action in support of the faculty facing possible layoffs, prior to the March 10 school board meeting. It was hoped that following Thurs­day's assembly, classes would resume on a normal basis.

 

During the day, a large number of students occupied the gym, listening to statements by the leadership group, playing records, and cheering. The walls bore banners stating, "United We Sit," "We Love Tinker" and "Support Pintens—Farmers Feed the World." After noon lunch, many of the students paraded through the building from the gym and back.

Many of the teachers were observed in their classrooms, some also occupied by a few students, while other students and teachers meandered about the halls. A few wandered about the parking lot, and some left school altogether.

No classes were being  con- j ducted,    it appeared, but generally the building except for the gym—was quiet and orderly.

 

LETTER BOX

A Student's View"

Almost everyone in Rice Lake has at least heard about all the turmoil concerning the school board's decision to dismiss five teachers. Many people are not fully informed about the situation. I have heard many questions concerning the actions of the students.

As a student who was in the middle of all the action, I will at­tempt to inform you about the student movement.

On Tuesday, February 19 we organized our "sit in". The school was covered with numerous signs urging students to take part in the protest. "Word of mouth" also played an important part in infor­ming students. I was disap­pointed with the words the Chronotype reporter chose to use concerning our "sit in": "the hastily organized effort." It was very organized.

Wednesday, February 20 was the day of the "sit in". The ad­ministration attempted to block our effort by leaving orders not to open the gym. We got over that obstacle. Their next attempt to lower our spirits was to take away two megaphones and two microphones we brought into the gym. Later in the .day they returned these things to us. Until that time, we utilized the power of yelling.

Our "sit in" was an organized and peaceful protest. The students did not get out of hand. The only "violence" was on the part of the administration when they tried to take away forcefully our megaphones and microphones. During the "sit in" we had speeches, cheers and pep talks. Also, we discussed what line of action we were going to take.

The question is asked: What did your "sit in" accomplish? There are many answers to this. First and foremost, we (the students) showed the administra­tion that we do have power, organization, and a voice. They finally started listening to us. The communication lines were open-ed, although just for a short time. Also, the administration realized that we are interested in our education; We love our teachers and we showed our support for them. Assembly in the auditorium. This assembly was run by the students. Many good questions were brought up. It did seem that one thing was decided on by the audience: we would request an open school board meeting where all the questions could be answered. We didn't think this was an unreasonable request. Later, it was proposed that there be a program over the radio where the school board would answer questions. There are pro­blems with this. First of all, the questions would be read beforehand. In this way, the Board could have carefully prepared answers ready. Also, the Board could skip over ques­tions they didn't feel like answering. Time is another limiting factor— we couldn't get a lot of time over the radio. If there were a call-in time, not many people get through; Many ques­tions would be left unanswered.

The school board was worried that the public meeting would not be kept orderly. We already  proved that we can be orderly –our “sit-in” was-with a very large group of kids. Another handicap of the radio program is that the school board members wouldn’t be seen face-to-face, It seems like a cop out.

The school board has turned down our request for an open meeting, just when they said open communication was needed.

 A meeting is the only solution for the time being. Right now the board is using a stalling tactic. Our administration must realize-the students are people, not numbers. A total enrollment drop of 30 students does not justify a firing of four teachers!

The board thinks that by ignoring us or by putting us off, that we will forget about everything. We won't give up!! 

Name withheld on request but will be released upon request to those with a valid interest in the subject.

Linda Olund

Raps Statement

I am deeply concerned with the remark of Police Chief Engstrom suggesting a rumor that a teacher may have been responsible for the shotgun blast (s) at the Rice Lake school district administration building which was printed in last week's Chronotype.

I am concerned that the remark was made and, further, shocked and dismayed that the Chronotype would print the rumor. I understand from my personal discussions with officials at the Chronotype that there was no intent to malign Rice Lake teachers. I am also confident that Police Chief Engstrom did not intend to cast needless aspersions on the highly competent Rice Lake teachers. You indicated only a desire to quell the rumor.

If, however, the rumor is totally un substantiated, as your article indicated, where then is the credibility for printing the rumor? If the Chronotype wishes to quell rumors, why not all the rumors relative to "who done it". We certainly view the action at the administration building with disdain. We hope in the future the Chronotype will utilize a more reasoned approach in handling these situations. I personally appreciated your time and interest in rectifying this unfortunate situation.

 

Teacher Layoffs

I have three children in the Rice Lake public schools, one in the high school and two in elementary. I attended the school board meeting in the high school cafeteria Feb. 18. Although I did not speak, I am in agreement with those students, teachers, and other parents and citizens who did. They all asked the school board to improve class size and preserve existing educational opportunities for students by avoiding teacher layoffs.

The individuals who spoke to the board, in front of the 350 people present, had a variety of speaking styles and skills. They all showed determination and courage. The high school students who spoke were particularly im­pressive and the peaceful demonstration by the high school students two days later in support of these speakers proved their thoughts were sincere and shared by their classmates.

It is difficult to know what effect the speeches had on the board members, since they voted unanimously and 'without com­ment to continue the five layoffs. Perhaps the board members were encouraged by the public interest shown and were simply taking it all in prior to making a final decision in March; perhaps they were in­timidated by the large number of people and were afraid to indicate agreement for fear of appearing to be pressured. Hopefully the board members are keeping an open mind on this issue.

I am writing this letter for two reasons. First, it seems important to let people know that a fundamental decision regarding the future quality of education for Rice Lake students is about to be made by the school board members and that, unlike last Monday night, when the final vote is taken it will be necessary for our school board represen­tatives to each explain his or her vote.

Secondly, it is appropriate to point out that one layoff would be of a third grade teacher. My son, who is in the third grade, and my youngest daughter, who is in kindergarten, were unable to attend the Monday board meeting, it being beyond their bedtime. I regret now that I did not bring them to the meeting. Although they probably do not comprehend what a layoff is, and could not have spoken without being considered either cute and irrelevant or manipulated by someone, they might have seen what I did — older students exhibiting the fundamental traits of the true education. Those high school students who spoke were applying acquired skills and knowledge to a real situation. They were demonstrating both the success and the value of the Rice Lake school system by serving as examples of in­dependent citizens operating within a democratic society.

I wish my children had seen this example. I hope the school board saw it and sees the wisdom of preserving, and improving the educational opportunities for the younger students by avoiding the layoffs.

 

Robert E. West

Executive Director

Northwest United Educators

Money-Education

Money. It seems our educational system has changed greatly in the past few years. It used to be based on the students' best interest but things are dif­ferent now and the value of student education comes second to money.

The already dwindling sack of funds in the yearly budget is being cut more and more each year. Athletic games used to be exciting for a great many students and were followed closely by many proud parents and faithful friends.

If you've been to any athletic event this year, you found that you didn't have to leave home until shortly before it started as there is no longer a crowd of student supporters. Why? The school board decided earlier this year that we should make money off sporting activities. Now, athletic event during the week. This gets pretty costly if a student wishes to attend each of the usual five events of a given winter week. Although the students grumbled and com­plained to each other about it, there was little to be done.

Last Wednesday five senior high staff members were in­formed their contracts for next year were not going to be renewed. Two of them will be allowed to stay on, working half days for half pay. Why this sudden blow to the faculty and students? The school board says since the enrollment is dropping we will no longer need teachers in this area.

One of the teachers that can work only half time next year is in the music department. The board obviously doesn't realize what goes into a musical, solo and ensemble or group choral concert. With only a part time director, this is all past history. Putting on a concert is one thing, but there are many other things such as vocal contests and special groups that involve af­ternoons and often evenings. Rice Lake has always prided itself with an exceptional talent for music but without proper coaching, we'll be just an average group of kids.

It has always been hard for sophomores and juniors to get all the classes they choose. Seniors get first choice and often fill the class. Take away a few measly students, but four teachers, and classrooms will be more crowded than ever and education in general will go down an entire notch.

It seems this decision was made without the students' in­terest being considered. A great many students are upset and tension is high in the classrooms on the hill. We intend to fight for our right to a complete education and we need the support of the public.

The people elected the school board members to run the school system the best way possible not the cheapest. If they lose sight of their purpose, a change has to be made.

 

Sheri Arntson

 Student Council



Do you care about the quality of education that you, your children or your grand­children will receive?

We, a group of concerned Rice Lake High School students do and we would like to inform you, the public, of the situation that confronts us.

We feel that the school board and the administration have a lack of communication with the students and the faculty of R.L.H.S.

To show our concern over the dismissal of four teachers, we held a peaceful protest on February 20. We then requested an open meeting with the school board to inform the public of this issue and clear up the unanswered questions. They did not grant us this meeting!!

It is projected that R.L.H.S. will have a decline in enrollment of only 30 students for 1980-81. This will cause a sharp increase in the student-teacher ratio and a sharp decrease in the quality of our education if they dismiss these teachers!

 

WE JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW!