Parents want school board to do right by its teachers

Survey by former employee shows many unhappy about treatment by superintendent, board
Chris Marcks, right, a former employee with the Shawano School District, provides the highlights of a survey she distributed to current and former employees with the district, during the June 7 Shawano School Board meeting at the Shawano Community High School library, indicating there is a lot of fear and distrust among the teachers. Board members, from left, Mart Grams, Diane Hoffman and Jamie Beyer look on.
(Lee Pulaski | NEW Media)Jeana Winslow, center, talks about the recent 1.24% raise Shawano School District teachers received at the June 7 Shawano School Board meeting as board member Mart Grams, left, and administrative assistant Lori Sherman look on.
(Lee Pulaski | NEW Media)Parent Sheila Aumann expressed her dismay that teachers feel they’re not valued in the Shawano School District during the June 7 Shawano School Board meeting and told the board it needs to do more to get and keep “wonderful” teachers.
(Lee Pulaski | NEW Media)
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

It has been a rough year for teachers everywhere, but survey results announced at the Shawano School Board’s June 7 meeting indicate the rough patch started in Shawano’s public schools even before the pandemic wreaked havoc.

Frustrated parents served as the voices for those teachers and spoke their own views on the school district’s current state of affairs. Many of the commenters in the survey believe the school district’s woes come from the top, from Superintendent Randi Anderson and, in some cases, from the board itself.

Chris Marcks, who until mid-May worked in the district’s human resources office, reported the results of a survey she distributed among current and former employees. With 47 responses, over half of them from employees who have been with the district more than 10 years, the results were not rosy.

Marcks’ survey showed one in three respondents were actively looking for another job, and 81% of respondents claimed they would leave the district if the right opportunity came along. Among those who said they had left or would be leaving, 89% said their departure was for a preventable reason.

Some of the anonymous comments show a lack of faith in Anderson, and others have said their building administrators are good while expressing disdain for district leadership. Comments included the following:

• “I feel as though students are looked at and referred to as $9,500, which sickens me! I have NEVER seen Randi Anderson in my building.”

• “The superintendent is taking the district in the wrong direction. They keep hiring administrators and coaches while raising class sizes. More and more keeps getting shoved at us.”

• “Superintendent Anderson cares about herself, and the board is loyal to her to a fault. If all of your administrators say there is a problem and you are losing staff at record numbers, there is a problem at the top.”

• “That the staff, parents, teachers and community needs to feel like we are being heard. I feel that the school board isn’t hearing the problems because they don’t want to admit that there is a problem.”

When asked to rate on a scale of one to five how much respondents trust the information that’s shared by the district, 48.9% chose one, while 36.2% chose two. No responses selected a four or five.

There were also no four or five ratings on a question asking how well the school board listens to staff members. Over 55% rated the board with a one, while another 27.7% chose two.

Marcks told the board that she has a desire to see her two children get the best education possible, but she feels community members are kept in the dark about a lot of things, including the fact that board meetings could now be attended in person for the first time since March 2020.

“Why hasn’t the public been informed about the ability to attend board meetings?” Marcks said.

She said she has tried to solicit information from staff members who were too scared to speak up, saying some feared losing their jobs. She read some of the comments from staff aloud.

Shawano parent Chelsea Gilling also read aloud some of the comments and said she’s saddened that there are so many teachers who feel there is a culture of fear.

“This is so alarming,” Gilling said. “These are our community members. These are our brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends — people that are teaching our children and people that taught us. For this many concerns to be going on, this is extremely alarming. I think this needs to be looked at, and I think we need some apologies here.”

Sheila Aumann, another parent, told the board that she’s had wonderful experiences with the teachers at Shawano’s public schools and doesn’t want them to leave for other places.

“To be successful, we need to get and keep wonderful teachers,” Aumann said.

Jeana Winslow, a parent who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the board, also had issues with the perceived distrust in the district, and she felt the board needed to pay more attention to it.

“It starts with you guys,” Winslow said. “This is your responsibility, and we vote you guys in to be the voice of the community. I truly hope and pray that you guys take a look at this survey and keep an open mind.”

Winslow recalled the board’s meeting on May 17 when it voted to increase teachers’ salaries by only 1.24%. Echoing words spoken by board member Mart Grams at that time, Winslow called the raise a “slap in the face,” and she encouraged the board to do everything it could to show that teachers matter, saying it’s no wonder they’re leaving.

“I saw one person here fighting for our teachers, and that was really disheartening,” Winslow said, her voice breaking. “After the year that we’ve had, I really feel like this was a slap in the face. I hope this comes back as an agenda item, and that you guys rethink that. I don’t care where you have to make cuts to find that.”

She was impressed with how many teachers commented in the anonymous survey but at the same time felt the district was in a bad place because so many teachers were unhappy.

“It hurts my heart,” Winslow said. “I didn’t think there were that many voices that would speak up, and we have almost 50 that are coming forward.”

Board President Michael Sleeper did not address the survey, but he encouraged community members to continue to comment and bring issues to the board’s attention.