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Janesville School Board considering new options brought by Act 10

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Frank Schultz
May 9, 2013

— Act 10 is opening doors that have rarely or never been opened, providing opportunity for change as well as conflict on school boards.

A Janesville School Board committee peeked through a few of those doors Wednesday.

Act 10 stopped most public-employee unions from bargaining for working conditions, meaning school boards now decide what happens in the workplace. Those work rules are part of a document called a handbook, which the Janesville board is trying to complete by July 1.

For example, the number of days that teachers work each year has been set at 190 for decades. Now, the school board could lengthen the year.

School board member Scott Feldt on Tuesday suggested teachers, who usually return to school one week before students, could return earlier.

“I want more professional-development days,” Feldt said, noting all the new technologies that teachers are expected to learn and use, as well as training in new instructional techniques, procedures and the like.

“We could say, ‘You all will be here Aug. 1,’” Feldt said.

Board member Kristin Hesselbacher said she has heard from teachers who would like more professional-development time.

Hesselbacher, however, made it clear she doesn’t favor adding two weeks to the teachers’ work year without increasing their pay.

“I would have some very huge problems with that,” Hesselbacher said.

Superintendent Karen Schulte agreed that the district could require more workdays, but she said the administration decided not to do that.

Instead, the administration is proposing more training during the week before school, and 10 hours of professional development will be required from every teacher every year outside his or her regular work hours.

Teacher workdays also will include training time, Schulte said.

The administration keeps an eye on how much change should be attempted in one year, Schulte said, and “remarkable” changes are already in the works.

“There need to be more professional-development days. It’s that simple,” Feldt insisted.

The committee voted 2-1 to move the administration’s professional development proposal to the full board. Feldt voted “no.”

The committee also looked at a proposal to offer health insurance to non-married domestic partners.

Bill Sodemann, who sat in on the meeting but did not vote, said he has a “moral” objection, but he also questioned the cost and potential for abuse.

Mary Ann Kahl, assistant director of human resources, said costs would increase, but no one knows by how much. Other local governments have seen increases around 1 percent, she said.

Couples would have to sign a document certifying they are living together, Kahl said.

Hesselbacher asked if a married employee must similarly prove that he or she is married.

No, she was told.

“That seems a little awkward and perhaps discriminatory,” Hesselbacher said.

Feldt had left the meeting at that point, so the committee did not have a quorum. Hesselbacher said she would talk to the board president and finance committee chairwoman to see if there was interest in moving the proposal forward.


 

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