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Angry Maple Grove Teacher Calls Her Sudden Transfer 'Unethical'

Kerri Jo Patten, formerly a first-grade teacher at Maple Grove Elementary School, has been reassigned to the Middle School, and she questioned the administration's decision at Monday's School Board meeting.

A Greenfield School District teacher displeased with what she felt was a surprising and unwarranted reassignment aired her grievances in front of the School Board on Monday.

Kerri Jo Patten, previously a first-grade teacher at , told the board she found out at the end of the school day on June 7 that she had been reassigned to the next year, where she will teach five different subjects.

Teacher transfers are common, according to Superintendent Conrad Farner, but the circumstances surrounding Patten’s is what has the teaching veteran confused and upset.

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Patten told the board that during her seven years with the district, her performance appraisals from administrators described her teaching as “commendable.” She said she had met twice with during the year and once with Farner, and was not made aware of any specific performance concerns.

“Treating employees this way is unethical, if not legal. Either way, it’s unacceptable."

But on June 7, Patten said Weisrock told her she was being reassigned and was then handed an eight-page “performance improvement document.”

“The document is full of untruths and includes false charges about practices and events that allegedly occurred over the last seven years,” Patten said. “It’s irrational to think that someone who had consistently received commendable performance reviews would suddenly receive reprimands covering that same timeframe seven years later. If these issues were real they would have been raised and investigated, documented and addressed at the time.”

Patten did not talk about specific allegations and said several colleagues experienced the same treatment that day. But she said teachers have been reluctant to speak up because of the fear of retaliation by administration

“Treating employees this way is unethical, if not legal. Either way, it’s unacceptable,” Patten said.

Farner would not address Patten’s statements made to the School Board, saying only that the administration does not discuss sensitive personnel matters in public. He did say staffing decisions are based on a number of reasons: retirements, resignations, medical leaves, maternity leaves, program changes, budget cuts, transfer requests, administrator requests, enrollment fluctuations and students’ needs.

Farner said Maple Grove had two leaves of absence, one retirement — 27-year veteran and teacher union president Doug Perry — and a “couple” resignations. He said the district also had retirements at three other schools and four other resignations.

The superintendent described the number of retirements, leaves and resignations as normal or low, and that the number of between-building transfers, such as Patten’s, might be up slightly but not abnormal.

He also said the district does not track those moves and that the district can have anywhere from zero to five annually. From this year to next, the district is currently looking at six such transfers — three Maple Grove teachers, two Edgewood teachers and one Elm Dale teacher are switching schools.

“Because we have the combination of retirements, resignations and leaves, we have opportunities to look at how we assign staff to maximize student learning,” Farner said. “And we are actually minimizing the number of transfers because of the retirements, resignations and leaves.”

The moves are made based on improving student achievement and building effective teacher teams at each grade level, according to Farner. A simple example is the educational need to have teachers who are most effective at using balanced literacy practices teaching at the primary grades to enforce strong reading habits, Farner said.

“It has been a time-consuming process involving many variables,” Farner said, “but we are confident that by matching our teachers’ skills sets, experiences, training and expertise to the appropriate grade level team, we will best serve our students.”

Resident Kathy Wiemers, whose child attends Maple Grove, believes the moves made at the school, including Patten’s, were calculated by administration and did not address parents’ concerns about lack of resources and lack of support given to teachers.

“Instead of taking responsibility, building and central office administrators manipulated that information and assigned it to the teachers who were trying to act in the best interest of the children they are supposed to be serving,” Wiemers said.

“The moves these teachers (are) making were a power play to control the culture at Maple Grove.”

hsmsparent June 18, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Listen to Mr. Seymour he is so correct. I have talked with several staff members from one of the elementary schools and the stories I have heard regarding Farner and Bugnacki are unbelieveable but like everyone is saying they are so afraid to speak out due to retaliation. That is a dirty rotten shame. Something needs to be done soon before Greenfield's School district gets run down to nothing just like the last district Farner worked for. GET HIM OUT OF HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Derek June 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Every parent and citizen should go here https://apps2.dpi.wi.gov/sdpr/spr.action and check the data for the School District of Greenfield. Compared to other districts, Greenfield has consistently scored second to last or third from the bottom in WKCE testing and ACT tests. This administration should be completely replaced based simply on this consistent and dismal performance. Why do we keep giving millions of taxpayer dollars to a failing management team?? The school board sits on their hands and listens to the BS....how about showing some results!?!?!?!?
John Seymour June 18, 2012 at 08:21 PM
They lose their best administrators. They see the light and leave to green pastures (or even other countries). Why stick around in a place where you feel like crap and get yelled at constantly. Ask yourself this...why are there only 2 CO admins who give themselves raises/titles and control everything? Citizens of Greenfield...wake up and get things done.
Recall Farner June 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM
How long does Farner's contract last? Maybe it's time for a more successful recall.
robert heule June 19, 2012 at 01:00 AM
If nothing else, the board should buy out the remainder of his contract. A small price for peace.
John Seymour June 19, 2012 at 01:55 AM
You know the truth Karen K.
Ben Hogan June 19, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Robert: I could not agree with you more! Removing Farner needs to be top priority right now for the school board at all costs.
David Cotey June 19, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Hey folks, I deleted a few comments that were on the fence when it comes to violating Patch's terms of use. Let's keep rumors off the message board.
KK June 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Wow, this is like listening to rant radio - not a lot of critical thinking, and a few individuals who seem to have nothing better to do than stir the gossip pot )for which Greenfield is already so well-known). A few posters here should be ashamed of themselves for ignorant posting! I TEACH in this district, and while many of us take the higher road and do not engage in these type of forums, I have chosen to join you on the lower road for a moment. While I agree that there are issues in this district, I don't see that they are any more severe than what other districts face. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, and mine is that things in SDoG are not nearly as "horrific" as some are portraying here. Test scores ARE low - and have been for decades - however, only in the last few years have things been put in place to begin to right the ship. The administration that some have decided is the worst ever just absorbed one entire position last year, and seems to be having hard time getting everything done. I am NOT a huge fan of the superintendent, but do recognize that he has done some good things for GF. The people who are screaming bloody murder are also those who should take a look in the mirror: one of the biggest problems that teachers in GF face is the bullying behavior of other teachers. Try to bring administration into that, and now the bullies cry foul at administration AND target those who tried to get help. Admin is not the only dysfunction at work here.
John Seymour June 20, 2012 at 12:06 PM
KK. They chose to "absorb" a position last year and give themselves raises so I don't think we need to feel sorry for them. Do you want them to change your personnel file so that your record looks bad? Do you think it is OK to scream at people who disagree with you? I understand that you like teaching in Greenfield, but you are truly blind to what is going on behind the scenes. There are things that have happened are are happening that you don't know about.
KK June 20, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Hi John, can you point me toward the documentation on admin raises? I thought I was told by a school board member that the assist supt was taking on the other assist supt job for NO pay raise. Maybe I misunderstood him. In all my years here, I have never seen these behaviors firsthand. I have heard of the supt getting too riled in meetings (but all secondhand information, which I refuse to react to), but I seem (as do many of my colleagues) to be missing this part of the subculture that you describe. If I'm blind to things that are really happening, then ignorance really is bliss! :) If you can tell me where to find the raise data, I would appreciate it, thanks!
robert heule June 20, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Please read Community Columnist Laura Schubert's article in the Journal-Sentinel on New Berlin's adoption of the Post Act 10 handbook ( page 15A). It happened about a week or so after Greenfield's action. Who set the pace?
John Seymour June 20, 2012 at 02:06 PM
KK, I would like to tell you what I know and how I know it, but I can't due to the fact that it would be wiped off of this site. You are blind to many things that are going on. You don't see what happens behind the scenes...I have. Keep being ignorant it will make your life easier.
Greenfield Resident Too! June 20, 2012 at 02:07 PM
KK = http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/dataondemand/33534649.html?appSession=25746215528492 (this is what the 2010/2011 school year incomes are). Mr. Conrad made $141,072 with fringe benefits of $46,858; pretty good income without a doctorial degree. And, http://m.jsonline.com/159629475.htm informs you of approval of 1.5% raise for Greenfield administration; math based on income would increase annual salary by $2,116.08. In the real world, people are not even getting raises and if they do it usually is less than $500 annually. I am aware they have taken on additional responsibilities, but does it make you think why people are not applying to work with or for Mr. Conrad in the administration building. In the world today there are a great amount of unemployed individuals, I personally have seen lines, and lines of people applying for jobs (i.e. go to job fairs, target job fair, etc.). Just trying to make you look outside the box.
RAJ June 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
KK stay strong, remember if admin replace people that leave they get ripped on for that as well. I don't care what anyone says, everyone hates the boss, me as well, I have had my hours changed 4 times in a year, it is part of my contract. All the teachers complained about the contract and they can be moved per the contract. John how much do you make, lets say $70,000+ benies and you have the summer off. Not me, I would love your job, lets be adults and do our job and teach our kids.
John Seymour June 20, 2012 at 07:55 PM
This has nothing to do with the changes that occurred to our salaries, etc. I'm fine with the amount of money I make (which isn't close to $70,000 more like 50,000) and with the added costs of pensions and insurance. To me it is fair. This is about two leaders who make poor decisions and treat people terribly. That is no way to run a business or a school district. If a teacher sucks...then get rid of them. Don't make stuff up because they disagreed with you. 7 Years worth of positive reviews does not lead to an 8 page improvement plan. RAJ if you only knew the truth of what has gone on behind the scenes you would be screaming at the top of your lungs to get rid of these guys. They are probably going to be sued for illegal practices and then the District will be in huge trouble because the truth will then have to come out under oath.
Shari June 20, 2012 at 08:29 PM
If you have been in the district for several years then you know that there has NEVER been this much animosity between the superintendent and others. Conrad has never been receptive to the parents. When he took the job as HR he told the receptionist that he would only accept calls from 3 people and the rest were to be put in voice mail. BTW those 3 people were his wife, a buddy, and the woman who later left her teaching job in West Allis to become his secretary. I know this to be true.
Shari June 20, 2012 at 08:42 PM
As far as absorbing positions goes, Conrad created NEW administrative positions when he became the superintendent. One was Community Relations and one was a new IT administrative post. And who filled these positions? People from West Allis, of course!
KK June 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Thanks for the additional data (Greenfield ResidentToo). @Shari - I am not arguing that there is a not disconnect between central office and community. This has been the case for some time now. I am simply saying - especially now that I have talked with more colleagues since yesterday - that things are not always as grotesque as they are being portrayed. I also know that there are elements being spouted that are NOT true...and have grown and morphed through the rumor mill. (John - I know you will call me ignorant for that remark as well...I'm okay with that. :)) I also don't believe that roping in the entire administration into the boss's corral is completely fair. I'm sure everyone has made their share of mistakes, but I've also seen (FRISThand, in these cases), those under the supt - from district office to principals -making decisions that they personally don't agree with, but need to be compliant with their leader. I dislike engaging in gossip because I've seen how things can become completely inaccurate over time, but if - as a previous poster alluded to - the supt is indeed looking for another position, he must be aware that his time has come as well. I know not all is perfect (far from), and never will be under ANY leadership, but I remain committed to this district, and while I don't always agree with decisions or method, I have to believe that at the root we're all in this for kids. RAJ - thanks for your comments from a different angle as well!
KK June 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM
*FIRSThand.....not FRISThand.......* I have summer grammar issues apparently.
KK June 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM
GRT - Food for thought for certain; thanks for the sources. I'm not saying anyone on this forum is wrong...I just want to be sure that we all remember (myself included) that there are many sides to every issue. Some of the teachers in my district who howl the loudest at the injustices inflicted upone them are also those who are not always as 'professional' in the everyday scene as they would have us believe.
robert heule June 22, 2012 at 03:37 PM
BIG NEWS! I heard that Alverno College is advising its graduate teaching students not to apply at Greenfield and New Berlin.
David Cotey June 22, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Hey Robert - and everyone else who has posted to this story and all others - I certainly appreciate your contributions, but let's keep rumors off the message boards. If there's something you think is a news tip, send it my way at david.cotey@patch.com and I'll look into it.
John Seymour June 22, 2012 at 09:38 PM
David, the very sad thing is...99% of what is being said in this discussion is not rumor. You just need to ask the right people and ask the right questions.
Shari June 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM
It would be great if the Patch would investigate. Perhaps the Patch could conduct some exit interviews of the administrators and teachers that have left/retired. Maybe they could be surveyed. Soon you will see that the breakdown in the district is not repairable without the removal of Conrad Farner.
robert heule June 23, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Isn't it a coincidence that Greenfield and New Berlin were the first two districts in S.E Wisconsin to adopt post Act 10 employee handbooks, and are now the most undesirable districts to work for.
robert heule June 23, 2012 at 01:18 PM
RUSS SPAHN FOR GOVERNOR IN '14
GRFResident June 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Don't forget support staff.
John Seymour June 23, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Robert, It's not just the handbook...it is the way people treat each other. You can't be inappropriate in meetings, social gatherings, etc. and expect people to want to work for/with you. The rules of the workplace and handbook aren't that bad...the treatment of anyone who disagrees or who Mr. Farner believes is below him is awful. This creates an intolerable work environment. That is the problem. Not the handbook.
A concerned parent June 24, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Please attend the school board meeting. Become an involved parent and community member. Please fight for our children at GHS, GMS, and G K-5. Stay involved and support our teachers and staff.

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