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Waupaca School Board delays layoff notices

In response to pending state budget cuts, the Waupaca School Board and the Waupaca Teachers Association signed two agreements to extend the timelines for layoff and retirement notices.

The school board met Monday, Feb. 28, to approve a measure that seeks to avoid sending preliminary layoff notices to every teacher in the district.

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards recommended that school boards decide on layoffs by Monday or risk having their staff cuts challenged in court. Many school boards in Wisconsin have decided to issue universal layoff notices.

“One of the options would be to send layoff notices to every single teacher,” District Administrator David Poeschl said to the board. “That would be detrimental to our relations with teachers.”

Poeschl said he spoke with the district’s legal counsel and with representatives from the teachers union to find an alternative to universal layoff notices.

Currently, the teachers’ contract requires that the district must notify teachers that they will be laid off by March 15. The date for issuing a preliminary notice of nonrenewal has been extended to May 1.

The contract also requires teachers to notify the district of early retirement prior to March 1 of their last school year. The school board and the teachers union have agreed to extend that date to March 18.

The district’s principals gave 32 teachers and staff copies of individual agreements Monday. By signing the agreements, the teachers waive any rights they have to be notified of layoff prior to March 15 and any rights to file a claim regarding the timeline of the layoff notices.

Any individual teacher who refuses to sign the agreement will immediately receive a layoff notice, Poeschl said.

Most of the teachers who were asked to sign the individual agreements are among those whose jobs are most threatened by proposed state budget cuts. Teachers involved in SAGE and Title I – programs that provide lower teacher-to-pupil ratios for elementary students and targeted mentoring to low-income children – received copies of the individual agreements. School officials fear the programs may be cut from the state budget.

Waupaca School Board President Steve Shambeau said that every teacher receiving the agreement may not be laid off. He said the agreement helps protect the district’s ability to appropriately staff the schools and provide a quality education.

Poeschl also told the board that 22 teachers have indicated they are considering retirement at the end of this school year.

He said one reason the teachers may opt for early retirement is that “there’s a fear that without a contract, the board can take away early retirement rights.”

Under the bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, all public employees, including teachers, lose collective bargaining rights on all issues except wages, which cannot be increased above the rate of inflation.

Poeschl said Monday that Joel Kempfert, president of the teachers union, had asked if the board would consider extending the current contract for two more years. The governor’s proposed bill would not affect existing contracts.

Since the contract extension proposal was not on the agenda, it was not discussed or acted upon at Monday’s special school board meeting.

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