At the March 17Manawa School Board meeting, employee morale was once again brought to the forefront — this time by a student at Little Wolf High School.
During the Public Comments portion of the meeting, student Adam Michalowski addressed the board regarding employee morale, in response to comments made by board members at the February meeting.
“I as a student and community member, I would like to share my impression of these issues and of our current situation as a district,” Michalowski said. “I have followed the chain of command and addressed administrators as well as individual board members, but I think it is valuable that I address the board publicly.”
In his comments, Michalowski told the board that he found the comments made at the February board meeting by board member Paul Sturm to be “disappointing and offensive.”
“Not only did you repudiate the vocalization of rising concerns about management of our school district, but you acted as if those concerned were nothing more than a select few serving their own personal interests. This is not the case,” Michalowski said.
Michalowski added that the school district’s challenges can’t be swept aside, and the “large and diverse group of people concerned” can’t be ignored.
“We have a district filled with excellent students and dedicated, talented teachers. However, community members, students, business owners, potential teachers, and potential students view our school unfavorably,” Michalowski said. “This is not because the community has raised concerns. It is not because we announced our concerns publicly when they were not remedied. It is because the board and administrative team appears to have taken only evasive and insincere steps to combat these concerns.
“It is not beyond the score of possibility to expect a school board and administrative team that is trusted by staff, students, and community, one that listens to and implements feedback, and supports our school district by encouraging teachers to make suggestions about education. By shifting focus from day-to-day operations to long term goals, the board would be better able to combat the challenges our district faces.”
Michalowski added that experienced teachers are leaving the district because of the climate. He said he is currently on his third Spanish teacher since his freshman year; his fourth high school nurse; and his third high school secretary.
Michalowski told the board “leadership here is intrusive and cumbersome, yet unresponsive and inconsistent in vital situations.”
Michalowski added that he has spoken with employees of nearby school districts “who see the dysfunction within ours as terrible and unique.”
“There is a pervasive lack of trust in our administration that stretches from staff and students to parents and community members. Some of this stems from the fact that communication is difficult and in most cases fruitless,” Michalowski said.
Some of the problems with the school district are the result of the school board and district administrator being too involved with the day-to-day operation of the school instead of focusing on the long term vision of the district, Michalowski said.
Michalowski acknowledged some board members have listened objectively.
“Unfortunately, they have been impeded by more vocal and rigid members,” Michalowski added.
He said the problems can’t be solved with quiet discussions, or through meetings and forums.
“This process needs to remove ineffective administrators, make communication more open and gainful, return power to teachers, and make all rules and procedures fair and consistent,” Michalowski said.
High school heating units
The board unanimously approved a heating/cooling HVAC investigation for the Little Wolf High School building. The investigation will be conducted by August Winters.
Stephanie Flynn, a member of the Building and Grounds Committee, informed the board that the heating system in the high school building needs to be addressed. She said the committee has been working on this for a period of time already, and thought it had a system picked out that it preferred. But after meeting with representatives from that company, the committee knew that system would not be an option.
This prompted new conversations with a previous contractor the district had been having discussions with – August Winters.
August Winters was invited to the March 13 Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting to discuss the cost to replace all the heating units in the high school building, except the gym. The possibility of adding air conditioning to the building was also discussed, Flynn said.
“There are a lot of unknowns because of the age of the building,” Flynn said.
She added that to get a more accurate estimate, a site investigation would be required. The site investigation would cost around $6,000.
“The main issue is our duct work,” Flynn said.
She said the duct work must be cleaned, and verified that it can support this type of heating and air system.
Board President, Kurt Kreklow added that the site investigation would take roughly one week.
Board member, David Strebe asked who is stating the heating units need to be replaced.
“Those air units are beyond their lifetime,” Flynn responded.
“Do we have a year? Do we have two years?,” Strebe asked.
Kreklow said that is unknown, and added that the district has been taking pieces off some units to repair other units.
“We’re getting to that point where there are no parts left to take off other units,” Kreklow said.
Dombrowski added that parts are being fabricated for the current units.
“You have dampers inside the units that are held open by sticks. We’ve spent, I think the last calculation I had, not including what we’ve done this year, is $32,000 in service calls that we’ve had to repair that. …We’re spending more in energy with those units than we really need to,” Dombrowski said.
He added there would be about a 20 percent energy savings with new units.
Flynn said the committee explored several options including replacing the units one-by-one as they fail.
“The problem with replacing one-by-one is each time you replace a unit you have recurring costs,” Kreklow added.
“This is not a Cadillac system. It’s a really good system for what we need, and our building needs,” Flynn said.
District Administrator Ed Dombrowski, gave the board an update regarding comments made at the February board meeting by two parents regarding their son.
“I want to point out that at the last meeting we had some public comments regarding some 504 plans. I want you to be aware that since the last meeting we had 29 emails and communications between our staff and the parents who spoke up. I did contact DPI. I could not find any evidence that supports anything that anybody had called at DPI. I did talk to Tony Evers’ secretary and I did call the 504 people and I talked with Dan Perkins and nobody’s had any contact with anybody from Manawa,” Dombrowski said.
Support staff wage model
A proposed Support Staff Wage & Evaluation Plan was on the agenda for approval but it was tabled until next month’s meeting. It was tabled because Dombrowski received another option from two support staff members the afternoon of the board meeting.
“My first initial inclination was not to accept it because we had gone through this, we’ve met with the support staff, we’ve went over the model,” Dombrowski said.
The changes the support staff were asking for were not major changes, Dombrowski said.
“I think that as long as we can get our staff members to be supportive of it, I’m in favor of just holding onto it and let’s take a look at all the options available to us,” Dombrowski said.
High school course fees
The board unanimously approved the elimination of course fees for the 2014-15 school year.
During the discussion Sturm informed the board it would cost the district $7,000-$8,000 if the course fees were eliminated.
“We feel that the money is in the budget to do it,” Sturm said.
Sturm added, “We aren’t sure how we got started with the fees in the first place but given that it is a public education we’re providing we think it would be best to waive those fees moving forward, and like I said our budget permits that.”
Flynn said that it was important for the board to reassure staff that the district’s budget would be sufficient without the fees.
“We didn’t want the fee to inhibit anybody from taking a course. We wanted them available to all,” Flynn said.
The board accepted the resignation of 4th grade teacher, Kris Kluever. In Kluever’s resignation letter, Kluever gave the district a 30 day notice, as stated in the School District of Manawa Employee Policy Manual for teachers.
Kluever also stated in the letter, “It has been a privilege to be a part of the Manawa school community for the past 25 years. I am honored to have the opportunity to teach children at Manawa Elementary and the former Manawa Middle School and I wish them the best for luck in their academic future.”
The board accepted three donations. It accepted $2,000 from Echo Ridge Ag Services, LLC for the Little Wolf High School Agriculture Program. It accepted $200 from the Manawa Snodeo to be used for bleachers. It accepted $100 from the Waupaca County Extension 4H Program.
• The board unanimously approved Youth Options for fall 2014-15 for six students.
• The board unanimously approved open enrollment slots for 2014-15.
• The board unanimously approved a CESA #5 2014-15 contract for services.
• The board unanimously approved junior high track coaches for 2013-14.