Watertown School District recognizes “Discipline with Dignity’ work by WEAC members Pam and Tim Suski

Pam and Tim Suski

The Watertown School District is recognizing WEAC members Pam and Tim Suski for their work with the “Discipline with Dignity” program that has demonstrated success through compassion and high expectations.

“Often our students who regularly struggle to make good choices at WHS have challenges at home,” the Suskis say. “We want to provide positive support and high expectations for both academics and behavior. Through this program we show that we believe in them and expect excellent behavior — because they are capable of it.”

Read the entire school district newsletter article:

‘Discipline with Dignity’ Focuses on Compassion and High Expectations

The “Discipline with Dignity” program launched in September 2017 with support from a Watertown Way grant is finding success using positive support and high expectations for students who make poor choices.
“Discipline with Dignity” aims to go beyond “punishments that are punitive” to a plan that is focused on the “whole child” so:
·    Negative behavior declines with more meaningful consequences
·    Recidivism rates drop
·    Students complete academic work during “restorative” time
·    Students become more connected to WHS and Watertown itself
·    Academic achievement and positive behavior improve, setting students up for more positive futures. 
Understanding students’ stories
Program leaders Pam and Tim Suski say they understand there are deeper reasons why students make poor choices. Often our students who regularly struggle to make good choices at WHS have challenges at home. We want to provide POSITIVE support and HIGH expectations for both academics and behavior. Through this program we show that we BELIEVE in them and expect excellent behavior — because they are capable of it. We have brought consistency to the restorative time program, earning students’ trust, so they are more willing to work with us and talk with us about their struggles. 
During the first hour of restorative time we work on academics and in the second hour we work on social skills/empowerment activities to help them become better members of WHS and the City of Watertown. We also “recruit” our toughest cases who consistently skip detentions (because they want out-of-school suspension) and have them serve time in an in-school suspension with a retired staff member who strives to build positive connections. As they work through this new system, we hope they see that we respect them, and they will then have more respect for the building, teachers, peers,and most importantly — themselves.
We were graciously awarded a $4,800 Spark! Health Grant from the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation; we are using those funds to purchase items for building, cooking and recreational projects and compensate teachers for their help with this project.
‘Restoration Hours’ include Skyward review, activities
The kids have responded well and seem to like the calm, consistent manner of “restorative hours” on Thursdays. Each week we look up their grades on Skyward to help direct them towards what things they need to do to pass their classes. We have also started with recreational and cooking activities in the first half of the year, and we will now be moving to some small building projects as well as outside projects in the Peace Garden in the spring. The hardest part has been trying to get our students who struggle the most to “buy in” to the system, and sit down to work on school work and/or talk with us, but we keep trying! Overall, due to a variety of changes at the high school, not just from our program, the number of discipline referrals is down.
The highlights are watching the kids find success with work and see that they CAN accomplish assignments and that people truly care about their success. It is also wonderful to see kids accept rules, consequences, and high expectations for behavior, as they realize that teachers and administrators care for them and want them to make great choices for future success. It is also great to see these kids interact positively with each other as they learn to play euchre, play an intense game of Uno, bake cookies, decorate for Homecoming or Prom, or work together to accomplish some building project. They feel more connected with the school overall.
Slowly, over time we know that our high expectations for them, their academic performance, and their behavior show that we care — and we won’t give up on them. If we can turn just one kid around who is walking a rough path, then we feel we have succeeded.

Baraboo educators send strong message: There is no room for hate

WEAC Region 5’s Baraboo Education Association members knew they wanted to send a strong message after a widely criticized photo of students who appeared to make a Nazi salute went viral in November.

The image raced across social media platforms on a Monday morning. “When your week starts with a public rebuke from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland, you know you’re in a bad place,” said Kari Nelson, an English teacher at Baraboo High School and BEA President. “We immediately recognized that our response, as a union, had to acknowledge the world’s shock and distress, but that it also needed to be a visible message in our respective school buildings.”

The BEA Executive Board sprang into action, promoting a “No Room for Hate” T-shirt fundraiser to benefit the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, the first of many groups to condemn the photo. The T-shirt’s stark message? No room for hate. This classroom. This school. This community. This state. This country. This world. 

The BEA pledged a matching gift of up to $500, but after 180 members of the Baraboo School District’s staff joined the fundraiser, the final donation rose to $2,100.

“The Auschwitz Memorial Museum was one of the first international organizations, dedicated to educating the world about anti-Semitism and the horrors of the Nazi death camps, to publicly rebuke our students, school, and community and to offer their educational resources to us,” Nelson said. “All of Baraboo is working together to learn and heal from this experience – which is great to see. Our union wanted to do something immediate and tangible to help.”

Teachers, administrators and support staff wore their T-shirts on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7.

“These symbols continue to be taboo because of the agonizing history they represent. We needed to let our students know that we will be vigilant when it comes to discrimination, bullying and hate in our buildings,” Nelson said.

“After all, with no room for hate, we have lots of space open for acceptance and care and love.”

More Resources:

The Wisconsin Education Association Council works to give teachers resources so they can foster hate-free schools where all people are respected and celebrated. Here are some of the many programs and resources WEAC and the NEA offer:

Black Lives Matter at School
Diversity, Equality and Social Justice Resources
Combatting Islamophobia
Safe and Welcoming Schools for LGBTQ+ Youth
Creating LGBTQ Inclusive Schools
Virtual Book Study on Racial Justice
Take Action on Racial Justice
Combatting Institutional Racism

If your local is interested in trainings for educators, or partnering with your district on any of these initiatives, email us at communications@weac.org.

Advocacy by Eau Claire educators leads to postponement of school board action on proposed benefit changes

At a meeting packed with nearly 100 members of the Eau Claire Association of Educators and supporters, the Eau Claire School Board voted unanimously Monday night not to cap health and dental benefits at the current 2018-19 rates and postponed changes to other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for the time being.

Many educators at the meeting spoke out against the proposed changes.

The Eau Claire Leader Telegram reported that ECAE President Mark Goings told the board that while he understands the district faces budget challenges, punishing educators is the wrong way to go.

“You are being asked to balance the books in a system that’s rigged against us,” Goings said. “Staff is the greatest cost, but staff is also the district’s greatest asset.”

The Leader Telegram also quoted Dan Wilson, a special education teacher in the district:

“We have been there for the district,” Wilson said, “but will the district continue to be there for us? If reasonable changes need to be made, then take the time to get all the facts and the data and the information. Then at that point, let’s talk about it.”

WEAC Election Update: State, local results – and what’s next

Election results
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 21 years of experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace and support for public education. Dallet will be seated in August. Voters also decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. And they approved the five largest school referendums in the state.

WEAC members in their communities worked within their districts on several of the referendums, including the Beloit Turner referendum that is reported to have lost by just two votes.

WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade social studies teacher, credited the work educators are doing to raise awareness about how the politics of recent years has hurt students and schools. “The pendulum is swinging back to restore Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” he said. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students.”

Voters supported 55 of 66 local school referendums — 83 percent — in Tuesday’s election, indicating communities are supportive of their public schools and willing to step up to fund them to make up for what the state has cut over the past few years. The passage rate is up from the fall elections, where 70 percent of referendum questions were approved, and the spring 2017 elections where 62 percent of referendum questions passed. Tuesday, the five largest referendums in the state all passed:

  • Chippewa Falls, $65 million
  • C. Everest, $60 million
  • River Falls, $48 million
  • Sparta , $32.5 million (two referendums)
  • Plymouth, $32 million

Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes.

A new law will benefit 13 of the districts with successful operating referendums, which are now eligible to receive a low revenue bump via an increased revenue ceiling for the next three years. That’s funding that can be used to improve student opportunities, hire educators and increase pay. The districts are:

  • Adams-Friendship
  • Almond-Bancroft
  • Benton
  • Ellsworth
  • Howard-Suamico
  • Kiel
  • Manitowoc
  • Markesan
  • Merrill
  • Mondovi
  • Randall J1
  • Shullsburg
  • Westby

See the complete list of school referendums here.

School Board Elections
Members of our local associations also recommended candidates in several school board elections, supporting candidates who support public school students.

Up Next: Special Elections
This is a big year in Wisconsin elections, and we’re already watching the next races shape up. After the governor was forced by the rulings of two judges to hold special elections in open Legislative seats, a field of candidates is coming forward. In Senate District 1 (Northeastern Wisconsin), Republicans Alex Renard and Andre Jacque have stepped forward. In Assembly District 42 (Southcentral Wisconsin), Democrats Ann Lloyd and Nicolas Schneider have announced their candidacies, along with Republicans Spencer Zimmerman and Jon Plumer. A special election primary election is set May 15, with the special election slated June 12.


Summer Organizers Recruit Nearly 500 New Union Members

The MTEA Summer Organizers hold a banner outside the MTEA office (photo: Joe Brusky).

The MTEA Summer Organizers hold a banner outside the MTEA office (photo: Joe Brusky).
It was another successful summer for the Wisconsin Summer Organizing program.
This year, the National Education Association hired summer organizers in nine Wisconsin union locals to recruit new union members and identify and develop member leaders.
Our twelve MTEA summer organizers had incredible success educating people about the value of our union. Thank you to everyone who welcomed them into your schools and worked together to grow membership.
Across the state nearly 500 union members were recruited, 190 of them into the MTEA. To honor their success we put their photo on the cover of our 2017-18 MTEA date book.
Thanks again to the 2017 Summer Organizers!

A group photo of Summer Organizers from around the state. This group signed up nearly 500 new members!



Racine educators win key school board vote on handbook

Photos by Joe Brusky

Racine educators won a key battle Monday night when the school board voted to delay action on changes to the employee handbook until after the administration meets and confers with the elected union leadership of the district’s educators.

“Great news from last night!” the Racine Education Association-Racine Educational Assistants Association declared on its Facebook page. “We take our profession seriously and we will collectively stand to make sure we have a voice in how our schools are run.”

Dozens of educators and supporters emailed and called their school board members urging them to work with elected union leaders to make changes to the handbook rather than imposing rules on employees without any input. Joined by educators and union colleagues from throughout southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee and Kenosha, they then showed up in a strong display of solidarity at the school board meeting. The vote was 5-4 to delay implementation and work with educators.

Below is a stream of comments and photos from the REA-REAA Facebook page:

Read more in the Racine Journal Times:

School Board defers handbook changes

RACINE – The Racine Education Association eked out a victory at the hands of the Racine Unified School Board, which voted 5-4 Monday to defer a vote on the proposed employee handbook. Dozens of teachers packed the board room at Monday’s meeting to hear the debate among the School Board members.



Kenosha teachers lead campaign for more prep time

Kenosha teachers and their supporters will be back at the School Board meeting this month, again asking board members to increase prep time so that teachers can fully meet the needs of their students. In March, dozens of teachers and supporters packed the board meeting to shine a light on the issue, with several teachers taking to the podium to explain the importance of prep time in helping teachers provide quality education for all students (see video below).

In addition, they have launched the #Plan2Learn letter writing campaign asking school board members to act on the Planning and Preparation policy at the April 24 School Board meeting.

“More planning time for educators affects student learning at all levels, and ensures that each student receives individualized lessons that provide them with a high quality academic experience,” the Kenosha Education Association said. “The sooner discussions start happening, the sooner our students can start receiving the education they deserve.”

The KEA’s Elementary Planning Time Committee members have worked with their fellow educators and community members to organize around this issue. In addition to mobilizing teachers and supporters at School Board meeting, their efforts include:

  • Conducting a survey that found that 75% of respondents did not feel that they had enough independently led planning time to meet the needs of their students.
  • Discovering the results of a survey that the Kenosha Unified School District distributed over a year ago in which 65% of respondents listed independently led teacher prep time as their #1 priority.
  • Drafting a thoughtful, solutions based resolution to the School Board that would bring some much needed change on this issue.
  • Gathering hundreds of signatures from fellow educators, parents, and community members in support of the resolution to ensure that teachers have the time they need to plan and prepare for the individual needs of their students.
  • Composing a draft School Board policy based on the resolution for School Board members to consider and adopt prior to the end of the 2016-2017 school year the text of this proposed policy is below.

Below is a video from the March School Board meeting:

Kenosha educators examine ways to keep classrooms safe and inclusive

From the Kenosha Education Association

Kenosha Education Association Executive Director Chris Perillo (left) welcomes GSAFE Senior Director of Education and Policy and workshop presenter, Brian Juchems.

The Kenosha Education Association is always looking for ways to provide opportunities to both educators and students that make them feel appreciated for who they are and prepared to take on challenges they face in and outside of the classroom. With a sudden increase of bullying incidents at some of the schools, KEA recognized there was a need to educate its members about how to keep their classrooms a safe and inclusive space for their students. As a result, KEA collaborated with GSAFE Wisconsin, an organization whose mission is to create just schools for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin, to host an exclusive, members only workshop to help attendees learn how to navigate an oftentimes sensitive topic. The workshop was titled “From Perspectives to Practice: Creating Welcoming Schools for Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth.”

The 90-minute session taught participants to understand the differences and connections between assigned sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and also outlined simple day-to-day practices educators can use to demonstrate an awareness of gender diversity.

Beth Djuplin, a middle school teacher and KEA member who attended the seminar, stated, “…The gender workshop was a life-changer for me. The question about describing your gender without describing what you look like or what you do…that was the epiphany moment. I just am.”

Twenty members participated in the session at the KEA office with an eagerness to learn and engage in meaningful and reflective conversation.

GSAFE Senior Director of Education and Policy and workshop presenter, Brian Juchems, said, “It was heartening to see a committed group of educators in various roles come out to learn how to create gender inclusive schools that are safe and welcoming not just for transgender but for all students. The audience was engaged, informed, and ready to take action. Congrats to the Kenosha Education Association and its members for creating this opportunity.”

The Kenosha Unified School District is currently in the midst of a discrimination lawsuit involving a transgender student, making it impossible for them to create and provide non-discrimination policies and practices for LGBTQ+ students until after it is settled. The KEA is focused on making sure educators and students of Kenosha are being provided with the resources they need to be effective in the classroom and decided to step in and provide a workshop that would benefit everyone.

KEA plans to host more educational events like this in the future with the hope that the takeaways will be just as positive and useful for its members as this one was. “I’m so glad KEA put on this session,” another participant said. “I learned so much – this is something that all teachers should be taught and talking about.”

Voters show strong support for local public schools

Bradley, Kloppenburg advance to State Supreme Court race on April 5

Joanne Kloppenberg

Joanne Kloppenburg

Scott Walker appointee Rebecca Bradley and Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg advanced in Tuesday’s primary and will face each other in the April 5 election for a seat on the State Supreme Court.

Sen. Chris Larson

Sen. Chris Larson

In another major primary race, State Sen. Chris Larson and incumbent Chris Abele advanced to the April 5 election for Milwaukee County Executive.

Voters throughout the state showed strong support for their local public schools Tuesday by approving several major school referendums.

One of the most important was in Rhinelander, where voters approved a $15 million referendum by more than a two-to-one margin, 68% yes to 32% no. As a result, the school district will not have to make major cuts that would have included:

  • Closure of two elementary schools.
  • Elimination of an additional 31 FTE teaching positions.
  • Elimination of all regular education paraeducators.
  • Elimination of all extracurriculars, including sports.

“Our community better understands the state and the funding formula,” a relieved Rhinelander School District Superintendent Kelli Jacobi said after the votes came in. “This isn’t just a district issue, it’s really a state issue in how school districts are funded. We have an equity problem in our state with winners and losers.”

The referendum allows the district to exceed the state-imposed revenue limits by $5 million per year beginning with the 2016-2017 school year and ending with the 2018-2019 school year.

Other key referendum successes included:

JEFFERSON: Voters approved – 61% to 39% – a referendum to exceed state-imposed revenue limits by up to $775,000 per year for three years. The funds will go toward maintaining the current level of educational programs and staff throughout the district.

Without the referendum, the school district would have had to make major cuts, including:

  • Elementary art, music and physical education teachers.
  • Automotive, agriculture and other technical education courses.
  • Elimination of kindergarten aides, a reading specialist and guidance counselors.

MARSHALL: Voters approved a three-year, $875,000-a year-operating referendum by a vote of 60% to 40%. The district said the funds will be used to maintain reasonable class sizes; sustain academics, co-curricular and athletic programs; support student access to technology; and continue maintenance of the district facilities.

WEAC worked with Regions and local associations to support the Rhinelander, Jefferson and Marshall referendums.

Other referendum victories on Tuesday included:

SLINGER: $32.4 million for school building renovations, updates, and programming improvements for the entire district, and $9.88 million for a new auditorium at the high school and to make improvements that allow for dedicated athletic spaces for the high school.

NORTHLAND PINES: $11.7 million over three years to maintain programs and operations and to provide for additional school safety and security measures, including security camera upgrades and employment of a school resource officer.

OOSTBURG: $9.5 million to remodel, renovate and demolish a wing of the elementary school in addition to furnishings, fixtures and equipment.

NEW GLARUS: $5.8 million for HVAC/roofs, safety and security issues, and additional classroom space.

INDEPENDENCE: $3.5 million over five years for non-recurring purposes consisting of operating expenses and programming improvements.

BANGOR: $2.5 million for non-recurring purposes.

School referendums failed in Hayward and Prescott.

West Bend teacher who was placed on administrative leave while challenging the district’s testing system is back to work

Tanja Lohr (2012 photo)

Tanya Lohr (2012 photo)

West Bend social studies teacher Tanya Lohr, who was placed on paid administrative leave after challenging the district’s new testing system, was placed back in her classroom Monday night after her union, her colleagues, parents and community supporters came to her defense. The board announced in front of a packed room that Lohr would be allowed back to work immediately.

Lohr, who is communications chair for the West Bend Education Association, had created and circulated a petition outlining four main concerns that staff had about the new Galileo testing system at the high school. When she met with administration to discuss the petition she was placed on administrative leave.

According to a report by Fox 6 Milwaukee, there was an outpouring of support for Lohr at Monday night’s meeting. Fox 6 reported:

“This teacher puts her students’ needs all ahead of her own,” one parent said.

Some members of the community came to Lohr’s defense, believing Lohr was doing what is best for the students.

“What is happening to our democracy when teachers are not allowed to circulate a petition?” Joy Schroeder said.

In a brief statement, West Bend School District School Board President Randy Marquardt said he could not address specifics of the case but that Lohr would be placed “back in her classroom immediately.”

Parent Kim Roemer presented the board with a petition signed by 1,185 people. The petition reads:

The WBEA is very concerned about the district’s choice to take an experienced, high quality educator out of her classroom, especially the week prior to final exams. Educators know the importance of teachers being with their students during this critical time.

Tanya’s administrative leave came after she spoke with Principal Bill Greymont about staff concerns regarding a threatening statement made by an Assistant Principal, and the chilling effect this statement had on the circulation of a petition outlining staff concerns with the Galileo testing system. Tanya spoke to Principal Greymont in her role as a union representative.

In these discussions, the WBEA felt they had reached an agreement with Principal Greymont wherein he would send out an email informing employees they were free to sign the petition without fear of retribution. Instead, an email was sent out that many employees, including union officers, believed was designed to further discourage them from signing the petition and raising their concerns. When Tanya met with Principal Greymont about his email, she was also threatened with retaliation.

These actions on the part of the employer have led to an immediate investigation by the WBEA, Region 7, and WEAC legal as they raise serious questions about the legality of the employer’s actions.

It is also important to note that there is legal protection for employees acting together for the purpose of mutual aid and protection to raise concerns about their working conditions, which is why it is important to raise our concerns collectively rather than on an individual basis.

According to the West Bend Daily News, parent Roemer told the board she has concerns about the teaching environment in the district.

“Our children’s learning conditions are greatly affected by our teachers’ teaching conditions and right now, those teaching conditions are less than enjoyable,” said Roemer, who volunteers in her children’s classrooms. “Right now, teachers are afraid to speak out. It takes a special soul to be a teacher. These are souls that should be protected and honored each and every day. They should be able to stand up for our children and for themselves without fear of being put on leave, fired and blackballed so they can’t hired by another district.”

Fox 6 report:

You can still sign the online petition:

West Bend school district: Return Tanya Lohr to her classroom!!!

Dear Members, The WBEA is informing you of a situation involving Executive Board member Tanya Lohr. Tanya Lohr has been placed on paid administrative leave. It is important to note that paid administrative leave is not discipline.