Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 12, 2005

HLWW gets complaint about teacher shortage

Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

As students returned on the first day of class to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, high school English teacher Charlie Bush made it clear he felt students were in a position to learn less reading and writing this year, due to cuts made by the school board.

Bush attended the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board work session Tuesday night to discuss a written request by him and high school English teacher Pam Hand to be released from their sixth assignment for the 2005-06 school year.

“It’s not about me, it’s about what is good for this district,” Bush said. “I want to see this district succeed, but it can’t do that if you make cuts in core classes.”

Full-time English teacher David Metcalf retired at the end of last year. Amanda Cacka has been hired to take his position, but currently, she is only employed half-time.

Therefore, Bush and Hand have been given a sixth class to teach, when they are only supposed to be responsible for five. In other words, two and a half teachers this year are expected to do the same job three teachers did last year, according to Bush.

Bush stated that the teaching contract allows for the teaching of a sixth class only in an emergency situation.

“I do not see this as an emergency. This is something that could have been planned for,” Bush said. “Students deserve three full-time teachers.”

When asked about the reason for hiring only a half-time teacher to replace a full-time teacher, Superintendent George Ladd explained the choice was made in the interest of balancing the budget.

“They (the school board) wanted to reduce the budget, but not cut staff,” Ladd said.

Ladd also explained that money from the operating levy will not kick in until next year, and at that time, they will be able to hire a full-time teacher – a reason that Bush does not agree with.

According to Bush, the district would only need to come up with $16,000 to make Cacka a full-time teacher.

“If you can’t find $16,000 in a $7 million budget, then you all ought to be fired,” Bush said.

Bush suggested he could help find ways to get the extra money in the budget.

“I’d be willing to talk to you about where you think there is waste in the budget,” Board Member Charlie Weber said.

The board agreed that English has been one area the district has struggled in, and the cuts were hard to make.

“Charlie makes a good argument, but I’m sure there are other teachers that could make like arguments in their area,” Board Member Al Doering said.

Board Member Tom Hammer agreed he would like to hear from administration about other needs that could be met, if the board had an extra $16,000.

Doering also suggested that they wait out the year, until they can hire a full-time teacher next year.

“If you wait one year, you will have short-changed students for one year,” Bush said.

Bush asked that the board to make a motion and a second to hire Cacka as a full-time teacher. The board decided it would not take action at the work session, but would revisit the issue at the regular board meeting Monday, Sept. 19.

“I am not going to go away, this is something I feel strongly about,”’ Bush said.

Decisions on bond specifics

Architect Gary Nyberg discussed everything from furniture to ground source heating with the board, before it made a resolution on the final number to send to the state department for review and comment.

The board made a resolution to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $25,654,250 to provide funds for a new high school and remodeling and additions to the existing elementary and middle school.

The breakdown of that number supplies the new high school with $13, 075,000, Humphrey Elementary with $3,268,920, Winsted Elementary with $3,410,330, Howard Lake Middle School with $1 million, and land purchase and utilities with $3 million. Also included is $700,000 for a bus garage and $1.2 million for new athletic fields at the new high school site.

This cost includes $870,000 for new furniture in the high school and in new classrooms in both the elementary schools, which was deemed a necessary expense by the board.

“In the 10 years I’ve been here, we’ve never replaced a desk,” principal Mike Day said.

The board also approved having one question on the building bond, which would include all of the expenses listed above.

The bond will also be spread out for a period of 25 years, instead of 20 years.

“If it was me paying it off, I would go 20 years, but looking at the overall tax impact, I think 25 years,” Board Member Lori Custer said.

Doering agreed, noting that spreading it out would make it easier for senior citizens, first-time home owners, and new families coming in.

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