Teacher Layoffs Rock Faculty and Students at Oconomowoc High School

No communication to students or parents explains rationale for terminations

Faculty and students were rocked Wednesday when the Oconomowoc Area School District tended layoff notices to teachers at the high school.

The district on Thursday would not release any information about the layoffs instead pointing to a Board of Education meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at the high school in the Little Theater. This is the regularly scheduled meeting for April. No agenda for the meeting is currently available although Assistant Superintendent Mike Barry said today in an e-mail to Oconomowoc Today that “At that meeting, there is an agenda topic specifically for the high school during which the OHS principal and the Supt will address this topic.”

Parents of students at the school said Thursday morning that their sons and daughters reported that there was no official communication with students at the school explaining the rationale behind the layoffs or who was laid off. Additionally, there was no communication to the parents, which left them with the difficult task of explaining the rationale behind the district’s decision.

The official OASD website did not mention the layoffs on its home page and the Superintendent’s Message, a regular feature on the website, also did not acknowledge the layoffs or provide any tools for parents or others to use when discussing the layoffs.

While Oconomowoc Today has learned the names of a number of the laid-off staff, it is not reporting the names until the OASD issues an official announcement, which may be on Tuesday night.

While lay-offs of professional staff have been happening throughout the state and district staff have warned that the potential for them was high, they still came as a shock to both staff and students.

Last year the district was able to avoid layoffs of any size due in part to the number of staff retirements, both regular and early. In addition, the district has seen a rise in student enrollment, which has increased the amount of state aid to the district. OASD Superintendent Pat Neudecker has repeatedly said that the 2012-2013 school year would be a difficult one for the district as a multitude of factors, including increases in expenses, would make it difficult for the district to avoid lay-offs.

The district does have a policy section on its website where it has published a “Certificated Staff Work Force Reduction” policy that uses the term “administrative staff” to define personnel covered by the policy. It is not clear if teachers are considered administrative staff or if the policy was applied in this situation. There is no other policy statement that would seem to apply.

“For all personnel covered by the current agreement between the Board of Education of the Oconomowoc Area School District and Oconomowoc Education Association, the contract shall govern activities related to reduction in force.

Should it become necessary to reduce Administrative staff, the following guidelines will be observed:

1.     The Superintendent of Schools will survey the Administrative staff to determine if any administrators so qualified wish to return to a teaching assignment, take early retirement, or request unpaid leave.

2.     The Superintendent then will review all of the Administrative functions and assignments which are required to manage the district in a safe, efficient, and effective manner.

3.     Certification, experience, seniority, past performance evaluations, and other pertinent factors will be considered by the Superintendent in planning and implementing any reductions.

4.     The goal to be achieved by any necessary reassignments must be that of ensuring that the quality of the educational program and expected services will be maintained at the highest possible level.”


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