Tracy Eklund, a music teacher for grades 5-12 in the Manawa School District, will be keeping her job.
The Manawa School Board deliberated for several hours in closed session Monday, March 25, prior to making a decision regarding renewal of her contract.
Eklund has been teaching music in Manawa for 23 years. She received a non-renewal notice in late February.
An overflowing crowd of students, parents, teachers and residents attended the Manawa School Board meeting March 25, to show their support for Eklund.
Resident Bill Ropke said once he heard of Eklund’s non-renewal he emailed all the board members asking why the district was not going to renew Eklund.
“Of the replies that I got, the recurring theme seemed to be we want to move this in a different direction,” Ropke told the board. “I question how a teacher with 23 years of experience is not capable all of a sudden of moving something in a different direction.”
Roseanne Sanderfoot, a Manawa Elementary School teacher, questioned how the district handles Improvement Plans it gives to teachers.
“I would think the district’s purpose would be to come alongside the teachers to help them in an area where they may be struggling, provide encouragement, training, membership, something that would help the teacher improve in a certain area,” Sanderfoot said. “For me, it seems like for our school district it’s a paper trail to get rid of somebody, rather than a way to support and encourage and better a person as a professional.”
Others questioned the future of the music program in the district.
Later, the school board convened in closed session. One of the discussions in closed session was a private conference with Eklund.
The County Post East obtained a copy of the closed session agenda for the private conference. The agenda was used by Eklund, Carmen O’Brien, the vice president of the Manawa Education Association, and Joan Heithoff, the union representative at the regional level. O’Brien and Heithoff accompanied Eklund to the private conference.
O’Brien told the County Post East that the reason for the non-renewal was vague until the private conference.
The board deliberated for around two more hours before reconvening in open session, and adjourning the meeting.
When asked after the meeting about the non-renewal of Eklund, board President Kurt Kreklow said the board “took no action to not renew her.”
After hearing about the outcome, O’Brien left the following message with the County Post East, “We are more than pleased with the board’s decision. We are so thankful to the people who spoke on Tracy’s behalf and we’re all hoping to work together to make the School District of Manawa better, with the board and the administration. We’re interested in having a working relationship with them.”
For a more detailed account of the meeting, read the April 4 County Post East.