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Supporters speak out for teacher

Janssen to meet with board Friday

By Robert Cloud

More than two dozen students, parents, alumni and retired teachers attended the Waupaca School Board meeting Tuesday, April 10, to show their support for Joe Janssen.

The district administration sent a preliminary notice to Janssen that his teaching contract would not be renewed next year.

Fifteen people spoke to the board on Janssen’s behalf.

They presented a petition with 423 signatures supporting Janssen, who teaches history at Waupaca High School.

“The overwhelming consensus is that Janssen doesn’t just have his students memorize facts in his history class but he teaches them to be critical thinkers and have civil, open-minded discussions among people with differing beliefs,” said Nancy Miller.

She noted that Janssen is the only teacher qualified to teach Advance Placement history.

“If he is let go this year, the students who need AP credits to apply for college will be out of luck,” Miller said.

Three students spoke in favor of Janssen, including Rachel Luedtke who said, “I think letting him go would alienate not only a good person but a very good teacher and it would disappoint much of the student body.”

Ann Buerger Linden said she was concerned with “how this proposed action of nonrenewal might be be perceived by the rest of the staff and students.

“I think it may cast a pall over the morale and productivity and enthusiasm of our dedicated teachers,” she said. “I also think you might lose some teachers and I think it may impact your ability to recruit excellent teachers in the future which is not good for out community at all.”

“In the public eye, this whole situation seems to be a clear case of discrimination against a very good teacher,” Carol Elvery said. “This situation also has the appearance of being managed underhandedly by placing the nonrenewal of two teachers’ contracts on the consent agenda of the board’s March meeting without notifying at least one of the individuals whose job is going to be affected.”

Barbara Laedtke was among those who attended the three-day WaupacaWay2K30 community conversation about the school district’s future last year.

“During those sessions I remember hearing a few people talking about getting rid of teachers who were trying to teach their own views,” Laedtke said. “It makes me think that those opinions might be the reasons why Mr. Janssen’s job is in jeopardy.”

As a former history teacher, Laedtke said Janssen’s view of world history was post-colonial, which is what University of Wisconsin students are currently learning.

“It’s the view of history from the perspective not of the conquering populations, but of the enslaved people, the conquered, indigenous people and the poor,” Laedtke said.

One parent, a school bus driver whose son is in the military, spoke in favor of not renewing Janssen’s contract at the school board meeting.

“Last year, they were all asked to wear their uniforms to school for Veterans Day,” Flonnie Pliska said. “He was not allowed to come to class because he had his uniform on.”

Pliska described Janssen’s actions as disrespectful.

“I agree to let him go and I wish that more people understood the things that have gone on,” Pliska said.

Janssen will meet with the school board in a private conference regarding the nonrenewal of his contract on Friday, April 13.

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