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Monday, July 11, 2011

A Letter: "Seeds Of Disharmony"

I submitted the following letter to the school board and most of the administrators in the Mauston School District on July 11, 2011.


Dear Leaders of the Mauston School District,

I am grateful for my job in the Mauston School District.  I have become a better teacher and a better person because of the experiences I have had here.  Some life-long friendships and life changing lessons would not have come to me if I had never been employed here.  I have been given so much, AND I have also given much back.  However, even before Walker's new tax on public workers I was starting to feel like I was giving more than I was getting back.

I am as reasonable and rational as anyone.  I understand that Governor Walker has put every school district in the state in a position of having to make difficult decisions.  However, I am deeply troubled by the choices that have been made in Mauston regarding the salary schedule.  I am also troubled that the educators in the district are being asked to sign a contract without any details relating to working environment, hours, sick days, etc.  I will, however, limit the rest of my comments here to the salary schedule.

As rational and reasonable as I am it is difficult to completely disconnect myself from my emotional reaction to all of this.  I cannot help but feel that I am being penalized twice:  once by Walker's new tax on public sector workers and a second time by a Mauston School District policy decision that punishes people for being loyal to the district.

I graduated from college in December of 2001 and in January of 2002 I started substitute teaching in Mauston and continued to do so the following school year.  I was hired under contract for a part time teaching position for the 2003-2004 school year.  I then went back to subbing and also worked as a tutor and after school alternative education teacher (not under contract).  I was then rehired full time under contract for the 2006-2007 school year.  I have been a full time employee since then.  My nine years of experience in the district (five under contract) apparently don't count for anything to those making decisions about pay.

I know that my gross pay is actually a few hundred dollars more than it was last year.  However, I have been moved back down to step one.  This is the result of two rounds of step reductions.  This means that someone new to the district also with five years of contract experience will make approximately $3,000.00 more than I will.  How much will that amount to over a career?  I know it might be petty thinking and may be pure jealousy at work, but I cannot help what I feel.  I know that this move will plant the seeds of disharmony.  I would like to pretend that I am a better human being than that.  I strive to rise above such pettiness.  However, I'm also very honest, and I know that I will not be the only one struggling with such feelings FOR THE REST OF MY TIME HERE IN MAUSTON.

On a more rational level, I find another problem with this salary schedule.  It is great that it benefits new hires to the district.  We have for too long paid too little to those just entering the district.  But that correction has come at the expense of everyone else in the middle of the pay schedule.  This decision has given educators an incentive to leave the district.  The only way I can benefit financially from my years of experience is to leave this district for another. 

Governor Walker certainly created a difficult situation for our district.  This was supposed to be the first year in quite some time without significant cuts to our budget.  The financial rug was yanked out from under the district.  That should not mean that we alter what we value.  I will remind you that our mission statement is as follows:  "The School District of Mauston, in partnership with families and community, is committed to educating students to set goals, think critically, act responsibly, and work cooperatively to become successful citizens."

We certainly have failed at working cooperatively, and it seems that critical thinking and responsible actions are also lacking.  I will not even argue that the leaders of the district have a responsibility to the employees; however, as an extension of the responsibility you have to the children of this community you need to consider how your policies effect the teachers in front of those children.  How is it a benefit to have teachers playing musical chairs from district to district?  With the direction we are heading, that will become common.  This is already the standard in the private sector. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you all will give serious consideration to these issues and will engage in a dialogue with teachers to help prevent such issues in the future. 

Carney A. Lentz
Mauston High School English Teacher,
6-12 English/Language Arts CCC Representative

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