The Manawa School Board meeting on Monday, May 19, had to be moved to the cafeteria due to the size of the crowd in attendance.
Two police officers stood in the back throughout the meeting.
Kurt Kreklow, board president, thanked the public for their attendance and interest in educational issues.
Several community members addressed the board.
“I appreciate all the teachers and support staff throughout the school,” said Joanne Johnson. “My concern is employee morale. This has nothing to do with Act 10 or finances. We have had five resignations in two weeks. Teachers are leaving because they are being treated poorly. As board members and administrators, you need to do something about this.”
“It’s difficult to get good teachers to come to this district when you hear that this is a poor district to work for,” she said.
“This school has come a long ways over the years. But the past two years it has gone the wrong direction,” said Gary Schoen. “The treatment of the teachers and the morale in the school is very disappointing and disheartening to hear.”
“I am asking the board to take some very severe action within 30 days to turn this thing around,” he said. “I expect the board to do at least that.”
Adam Michalowski, a student at Little Wolf High School, said poor staff morale, ineffective leadership and limited communication are problems facing the district.
“If we are going to grow the district and strengthen the communities it encompasses, we are going to have to start sitting down and speaking directly to one another,” he said.
Michalowski noted that the board has encouraged direct communication with the members about these issues.
“I have been denied individual meetings with the board president and ignored by other members,” said Michalowski. “Meetings with the few who have responded yield few results.”
“It is time to get someone to listen,” said Jackie Beyer. “There must be change. The administrator is the clear person to ask to leave.”
“Dombrowski admits he made a bad decision when it came to choosing the test for the school report card,” she said. “Factor in that major bad decision in with the intimidating, threatening demeanor that the staff is exposed to, why would any teacher want to continue to work here?”
“You as a board have a minimum obligation to put Mr. Dombrowski on administrative leave in order to investigate these issues,” she said. “Aren’t we a ‘no bullying’ school? Shouldn’t that start at the top?”
Beyer told the board of a petition that she had with 70 signatures on it, asking this board to act immediately.
“We are getting media attention because you have not fixed this,” said Manawa Mayor John Smith. “It has been three years. It’s not Act 10, it’s the administration and your failure to act upon the poor leadership.”
Smith referred to an article from a newspaper from the New Lisbon area where the mayor of that community talks about concerns regarding a past administrator.
“Lack of leadership, combative nature, insensitive, intimidating, hostile and incompetent,” said Smith. “The same issues we are dealing with, with that very same administrator.”
“This is tearing up our educators and support staff, for one person,” he said. “When is this going to end? You need to take affirmative action now. You cannot wait 30 days.”
“I ask that you listen to everything that everyone has said,” said Marie Gorman. “I am a passionate mother that wants the best education for my students. I want the best education that there is for kids. I don’t want the teachers to feel that they are up against a wall. They need an administration and school board to back them.”
“Give them the tools they need,” she said. “They are what makes this school district great.”
“I would like to thank the people for their input,” said board member Rick Lowney. “And I want to reassure you that at least one board member is listening.”
“Thanks everyone who gathered here this evening,” said Kreklow. “I wish everyone was always this interested in education.”
In other business, the board accepted the retirements of Judy Douglas, Linda Trepasso and Bernice Beck.
Helene Pohl acknowledged their years of service and thanked them for their time with the district.
An invitation was extended to the community to celebrate the last day of school with a family picnic on June 6. Lunch will be served from 10:50 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Paul Sturm noted that they are still working on the wage model for next year.
“We are now in the process of making some revisions,” said Sturm. “We are not ready to approve at this time and will potentially have something for next month.”
The board approved the contract for Daniel Wolfgram as high school principal.
“I look forward to serving your community as best I can, and putting the students first,” said Wolfgram.
Other contracts were approved for the following people: Carmen O’Brien, curriculum director; Jill Seka, early childhood teacher; Tracy Breaker, junior high teacher; Emily Guentner, 4K teacher; Amy Busse, elementary teacher; and Michael Kelleher, chemistry/physics teacher.
An increase in the custodial contract from 9 to 12 months was also approved for Cindy Buttles, retroactive to May 23.
Pohl addressed the board about working with the UW-Extension for the long term planning of the district.
“We are planning on moving rather rapidly with this,” said Pohl. “We are hoping to gather a good cross section of the community along with staff members. What it will do is take a look at not only our assets and strengths, but also weaknesses. We will get a starting point and establish priorities. We are hoping to achieve a long range plan.”
Pohl noted that the committee will be made up of at least 20 people that are stake holders that have a deep interest in the school.
Upcoming meeting dates include: June 9 – Policy & Personnel at 6:30 p.m., which will cover electronic cigarettes, wellness policy and medical administration; and June 16 – regular board meeting at 6:30 p.m.