Although a long-time Fond du Lac educator says teachers are fleeing a public school district in decline, school officials say staff turnover is the norm since the state implemented Act 10.
At a recent school board meeting, Theisen Middle School science teacher Ted Eischeid delivered a short speech that spelled out a general feeling of staff dissatisfaction in the Fond du Lac School District.
“Teachers have been leaving whenever possible, by early retirement or resignation, and this reflects a brain drain in the community. People are choosing to leave this district,” he said.
After 25 years working with students, Eischeid, who also serves as a Fond du Lac County Board supervisor, said he chose to resign because of changes in the district that have caused his colleagues to suffer from low morale and depression. He pointed to Act 10 as the breaking point that gave “virtually all power to the school district.”
Passed in 2011, the Budget Repair Bill (Act 10) cut benefits for all state employees, including teachers, eliminated the ability for unions to negotiate over anything but wages, and restricted future salary increases for represented employees.
Eischeid said prior to Act 10, the district and teachers collaborated to make decisions and solve problems, and this created an atmosphere of mutual respect. That respect, he said, no longer exists.
“It’s a matter of feeling valued,” he said. “Now, there is no longer any engagement in a collaborative process. It’s become a top-down school district.”
The Fond du Lac School District had 22 retirements and 24 teachers resign from their positions during the 2015-16 school year. These numbers are similar to previous years, said Human Resources Director Sharon Simon.
Earlier this year, Simon and Superintendent James Sebert sat down with The Reporter to discuss increased teacher movement, not just in Fond du Lac, but throughout the state. Simon said Act 10 has provided educators with the ability to be more flexible with their careers.
Because of changes in the salary schedule, teachers are now able to take their experience with them, she said, when prior to the changes they may have entered a new school district starting at a lower wage.
“People leave school districts for a variety of reasons,” Simon said. “Most leave to be closer to their family or to work in the community where they live. Some have left the teaching profession. Others have taken different jobs within education such as instructional coaching. We have had people leave because they are not happy with the direction of public education in Wisconsin and some are not happy with the district.”
While several teachers did contact The Reporter, they chose to remain off the record and said they could not be quoted for the story. One teacher said that at a recent meeting teachers were referred to by an assigned number.
Fond du Lac School Board President Julie Nett said plenty of opportunities exist for collaboration if teachers want to take advantage of them. The average staff member in Fond du Lac has been with the district 12 years, she said.
“We offer collaboration every single day in the school district. We have 42 offerings in a summer institute with 224 staff members participating in staff and professional development,” Nett said. “We are not throwing anyone out there to do things on their own. We do offer support to our staff.”
Eischeid said he felt he had to stand up on behalf of his colleagues before he left. He plans to stay in Fond du Lac for another year before he moves to Alaska to join his wife. Hedy Eischeid is a former Fond du Lac teacher who led the Fond du Lac Education Association for many years.
Ted Eischeid said: “I am proud of Fond du Lac and want us to have the best school district in the state. I did this because I had to be honest with myself. I love my students and I feel this has been my best year yet, so it is difficult to leave.”
Nett said her door is always open if anyone wants to talk about school issues. She encourages teachers to speak openly with their administrators.
“Fear can destroy so many things, and it can destroy anything positive,” she said. “It is all about keeping the lines of communication open.”
Reach Sharon Roznik at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-907-7936; on Twitter: @sharonroznik.
Fond du Lac School District retirements/resignations
•2011-12 — 21 resignations, 14 retirements
•2012-13 — 19 resignations, 9 retirements
•2013-14 — 29 resignations, 6 retirements
•2014-15 — 27 resignations, 21 retirements
Source: Fond du Lac School District
Sharon Roznik, Action Reporter Media
Published on July 6, 2015