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Teacher Resignations Continue to Trouble Some Board Members

Greenfield School Board member Cathy Walsh said the combined resignations and retirements have been extraordinary; Superintendent Conrad Farner pointed at Acts 10 and 32 as creating unusual circumstances.

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.

John Seymour July 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Once again this comes out. The fee that is charged is excessive and punitive and is just the tip of the iceberg for what others have had to pay to leave. It seems to me that half the board gets it and half does not. Until Conrad Farner is fired this will not change. The morale is low and teachers are going to be leaving every year. Pam, you are naive to what is really going on. Abusive and inappropriate actions by this man need to end. Who will have the courage to stand up and find out what really is going on? This needs to be done privately and not at a public school board meeting before the District is sued.
The Big Cat July 24, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Thanks for saving the taxpayers money. People who do not approve of this can voluntarily contribute their own money if they feel so strongly that Greenfield citizens are not taxed enough.
lbaklc July 24, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Love the way the superintendent interprets the stats to cover up the teacher resignation problem with sleight of hand. Assumes a very gullible public. Should enter politics or write scripts for political commercials.
Greenfield Resident Too! July 24, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Greenfield people wake up and smell what Mr. Conrad is really doing to the school district. This has been going on for years and publically the unprofessionalism in leadership is coming to light.
Greenfield Resident Too! July 24, 2012 at 08:31 PM
My question to Pam or any individual that had a business; would you be concerned if you had a line of people resigning may it be five or 16 wouldn't you question why, what is wrong with my business, how much money will it take to train new employees, what do I tell my customers (in this instance it would be the taxpayers). Looks like a business problem to me!
Carolyn Tyler July 24, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I am a parent of four children. Three of them are now adults with careers and families of their own. I have one in the District now. All I have to say at this point is that Greenfield School District is not what it used to be. Something has been going on behind closed doors and the proof is in the ongoing resignations. Sadly, the ones paying the ultimate price are the students.
Shari July 25, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I am wondering what Pam thinks we are paying her for. I know it is not a ton of money to serve on the school board, but if all we wanted was a rubber stamp, we can buy those for much less. The handbook now serves essentially as a contract. It deserves serious scrutiny. It will determine if quality teachers choose to work in Greenfield or not. It needs to be fair and comparable to other districts.
Displayin@hotmail.com July 25, 2012 at 11:41 AM
The resigning teachers can now go and seek other employment. Maybe they will be better off or my guess is they will find out that the grass isn't greener in the private sector. Replacing the open taching positions will be no problem with the DEEP labor pool of taechers looking for jobs. New teachers that have the passion to teach will benefit the students.
robert heule July 25, 2012 at 01:18 PM
As I posted earlier, hold a closed session without a lawyer present and settle the problems once and for all.
Greenfield Teacher July 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I agree with Robert. The board has never received this many complaints so something obviously is gone awry. There seems to be alot of speculation and people on the outside who think they know what is going on. The easiest way to get to the bottom of the issue is for the board to get out and start talking to their employees and parents. I'm relieved to see that Cathy and Russ are gathering facts and forming their own opinions of the situation rather than just naively believing the excuses given by the persons the complaints are about. I'm not sure why Pam is so naive and ready to believe anything that she is told by the administrators. Yes, the board hired them but it is the board's job to make sure they are doing their job too. It is not micro-managine... it is doing the job of a board member. In the private sector, when complaints are brought to the boss's attention it is their job to investigate the complaints and protect their employees. It should be the same in the education world... the board is the boss and complaints are being brought to their attention regarding an employee. It is their duty to investigate and discuss the results without the employee or lawyer present. It has become clear that no other district in the area wants CF so he has to do some sweet talking to keep his job here in GF.
Greenfield Teacher July 25, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Displaying... you have completely misunderstood everything the teachers have said. It has nothing to do with the grass being greener. CF is bullying and mistreating the teachers... almost to the point of abusive behavior. The district is losing highly qualified teachers to other district. Othere districts are pursuing Greenfield Teachers b/c the teachers have a very strong reputation. Most of the new hires we have coming in are all from West Allis... very few people want to work in GF. You need to objectively look at the data and base your words on facts not emotions or jealously of teachers.
Greenfield Resident Too! July 25, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Very well written...Greenfield Teacher. I have stated before CF has the "divide and conquer" strategy.
Greenfield Teacher July 26, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Thank-you GR Resident. I just hope people start looking at facts instead of making this situation so personal.
Displayin@hotmail.com July 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Let them leave. They are just a bunch of whiners. The board isnt nice to me, wawawa. I dont like my boss, wawawa. Suck it up you bunch of babies. Welcome to the grown up world.
Displayin@hotmail.com July 27, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Did it ever occur to you that you are bring forced out? Again welcome to grown up land. They are culling the herd.
John Seymour July 27, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Display...you have no clue as to what is really going on do you? Most of these people have left to join better Districts with much higher test scores. I'm pretty sure the herd is not being culled. Before you comment anymore you should actually know what you are talking about. This is "real world" like you think it is. This is people leaving because they see illegal and crooked things going on.
Delaney July 29, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I am the parent of a Greenfield student. I know I’m on the outside looking in. I’m trying not to speculate what is going on as I realize I don’t know the internal school facts. I only know the facts in my family. I read that Kerri Jo Patten is being moved to another grade and school against her will. I shake my head with the lack of understanding. The actions I’m reading about include reprimand for years of incompetent teaching. My head shaking doesn’t stop. These comments and actions are in such contradiction with my family’s experience. My child is now a senior. My child had Mrs. Patten for her fifth grade teacher. That was Mrs. Patten’s first year teaching in the Greenfield School System. All I can discuss is my family’s personal experience. I need to share that Mrs. Patten’s teaching style and skills changed my child’s life for the better. I will be forever grateful to her.
Delaney July 29, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I read the derogatory information being written about Mrs. Patten as my heart and mind do not comprehend why. And then I read that Mrs. Patten is the head of the union. My stomach turns in disgust. As an outsider looking in I see a system that is personally ruining the reputation of a woman, who has demonstrated within my family what phenomenal teacher she is, because management wants to destroy the teachers union. The word “system” depersonalizes what has occurred. As an outsider reading articles and comments I wonder at the actions and real intent of Conrad Farner. I know from personal experience that Mrs. Patten is not a teacher Greenfield School District should be “culling” or “forcing out”. If Greenfield School District is loosing the quality of teachers with the level and skill of one like Mrs. Patten, we as a community are in a sorry position. Our children, their education, and ultimately this community will suffer.
Alicia Smokowicz July 30, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I wish that parents that are concerned on what is really happening should attend the school board meetings and see how Conrad Farner is really like he is clueless. Also hire fresh teachers that are leaving school and are willing to work for our students.
Displayin@hotmail.com July 30, 2012 at 06:46 PM
@John. I do know what I am talking about and so do you. You are saying whatever BS you can to save your job that only requires you to show up and get paid as long as you still have tenure. You know it as well as I do. I am the only one admitting it. I understand your outrage now that you may have to actually be held accountable for your performance. On the brightside you can still whine about it.
John Seymour July 30, 2012 at 07:57 PM
@Display...nice try. I don't have tenure because no teacher does, and I never even said I worked for Greenfield. In fact, I'm not even a member of the union. You can accuse me all you want. I don't need to worry about saving my job as I have all outstanding reviews. I never once whined about my job and I'm am not upset about Act 10 etc. What I am talking about is the fact that the person in charge of the District is illegally targeting a certain demographic of teachers and it will come back to bite him and the Board if something is not done about it. Like I've said before...if a teacher is bad then get rid of them.
Sleepless in Greenfield August 01, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I am a Greenfield teacher and am dreading the new school year. I am weighing my options and will likely be resigning as well before the end of the summer. The climate is suffocating and doesn't fit with our mission...our calling. It's like a nurse treating cancer patients and walking by a group of doctors who are smoking just out of view of the patients. It doesn't make sense! It would reduce the trust among the team and force people to question the judgement and intentions of the leaders. When Act 10 was passed, we all knew Conrad would take advantage of the new circumstances, but no one thought it could get this bad. I really want to keep teaching here, but I feel things will only get worse as long as Conrad is the head administrator.
John Seymour August 01, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Don't resign unless you have another teaching job lined up or another job. CF will hammer you with monetary penalties if you decide to leave this late, or he may not even let you out of your contract like he did last year to a teacher who had a job offer in Brookfield. This man is vindictive and he will stop at nothing to get his way. It is really too bad that none of the truth comes out ever and that he keeps getting away with what is going on. I can't believe people are foolish enough to leave another district to come to Greenfield.
karen k August 03, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Is it true that Alverno stopped sending student teachers to Greenfield? How many canary's have to die in the mine before we can know what's happening. I hope it's before we replace New Berlin as the bottom of the barrel school district. We are almost there.
robert heule August 03, 2012 at 01:28 PM
The "liquidated damage" policy should no longer be in the hands of the Board. It belongs in court. The School District of Greenfield is a creature of the state, and may not deprive a person of property without due process of law. The sooner the district is sued, the better.
robert heule August 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Time to wake up. At least 3 conservatives who were anti-teacher in the past are now demanding that something be done about the current administration.
robert heule August 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Our founding fathers and Judeo-Christian values have taught us that we are to be rewarded for bettering ourselves. Why then should teachers be penalized for leaving Greenfield?

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