Greenfield School Board members approved four more teacher resignations Monday, leading some to question what was happening in the district.
Board member Cathy Walsh said those four resignations raised the total to 15 or 16 teachers leaving the district through resignations or retirements. She pointed to a review of the last 10 years related to employee resignations conducted by the administration, and said this year's numbers show something new.
Superintendent Conrad Farner the review showed employee resignations across the district are averaging four fewer per year over the past five years compared to the previous five years.
But Walsh said she did not agree with Farner's conclusions.
“When I just took out teachers, the average teacher resignations over the last 10 years was only 6 or 7,” Walsh said. “Yet, we’re up to 16 so far this year. Add in all the non-teachers, that changes the numbers. But if you just focus on teachers, this seems like an extraordinary number of resignations, and also including the retirements.”
Farner said he did not break down the study to focus only on teacher movement.
“It’s definitely a new era with Act 10 and 32,” he said. “In talking with other districts, we’re seeing more teacher movement from district to district than ever before.”
Board member Russ Spahn, over the number of summer resignations at a June board meeting, said he spoke with outgoing district teachers about their reasons for leaving and would present his findings in a future closed session meeting of the board.
Board member Pam Sierzchulski said it’s too early to call this year’s resignations a trend, or point to it as a problem.
“In the little bit of research I did, we’re finding this across the public sector with the changes politically in the Wisconsin climate,” she said. “There’s been a higher number of resignations … this year might be an unusual bump year, but I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions until we see next year.”
There are no further pending resignations, according to Farner.
In related board action, members voted against lowering the liquidated damages fee for three of the four resigning teachers from $1,500 to $1,000.
The district collects the fee from employees who resign late in the summer. Board president Bruce Bailey believed it was too steep, and Walsh and Spahn agreed.
But the motion failed, 3-3, with Sierzchulski, Len Cich and Don Carlson voting against the reduction.
“We’re not being consistent,” Sierzchulski said. “We’re saying save taxpayers dollars, but then we give it back.”
The board did vote in favor of setting up an installment plan for one teacher to pay the $1,500; the remaining two had already paid the fee.