On May 21 a neat thing happened in Rhinelander, even while the community is slipping in quicksand. Several RHS teachers have been told they won’t be hired next year. With their 20 years of teaching high school, their fair salaries have become a liability. Teachers who matter, who have made amazing differences in students’ lives, who have proven their value over and over and keep on doing good work because that is who they are, can now be tossed out.
Before Act 10, teachers with 10 or fewer years understood “last hired, first fired.” And that gave the system the flexibility to move out lame performers. Now no teacher knows the rules because there are no rules. The BoE is saving money by tweaking those positions into ones that can be filled with less experienced, less costly people.
Here’s the neat part. As the Board of Education met, with a standing room only crowd, they listened to one after another person voice their articulate, honest, heartfelt pleas. Some speakers were RHS graduates, now enrolled at various UW campuses, letting there be no doubt that the specific teachers under fire are The Ones that made the difference to them here at RHS. There were current students, current and retired teachers and parents. One by one, they stood and spoke, most from their prepared statements, echoing their passion. They spoke eloquently in defense of keeping these teachers in Rhinelander’s teaching pool. With one voice, they demonstrated a core of Rhinelander citizens who care about their education and the education of their younger siblings.
They expressed sadness and fear about the indelible loss of good teachers who can interact so seamlessly with young people and fellow staff. The gathered citizens respectfully, but forcefully told the Board of Education to reconsider the use of their new power, given to them by Scott Walker’s divisive Act 10.
Catherine Joppa, Rhinelander