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Green Bay school board seeking DPI waivers

By Rich Palzewic
Staff Writer

GREEN BAY – At its meeting April 6, the Green Bay school board met remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’d like to give a huge thank you to the people in our district who have been working so hard during this time,” said Brenda Warren, board president. “I’m grateful to everybody for what they’ve been able to do.”

Josh Patchak, executive director of technology and information, said 850 computers have been sent home since the school closure.

Including the computers brought home by the students before the school closure, Patchak said about 9,000 computers are at homes in the district.

The board also discussed a resolution to suspend all in-person public appearances and comments due to COVID-19.

“This is a compromise to be able to hold open meetings over the internet,” Warren said. “We put in the process for the public to submit written comments through the website. If you want your comments read, we could read those in our meetings.”

Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld updated the board on recent waivers drafted regarding instructional requirements.

“When Gov. Tony Evers came forward with the closure of schools, I received a phone call along with other superintendents from Madison, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha from the (Wisconsin) Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that talked to us about the concerns we had,” Langenfeld said. “We knew the teaching minutes would be a concern, but what other areas could disadvantage students in the future based on this new environment we are currently in?”

She said DPI Superintendent Dr. Carolyn Stanford Taylor wants to move forward while being empathetic and flexible.

“The DPI can’t make a unilateral decision to waive this or that,” Langenfeld said. “Each board of education in each district needs to make those decisions. The waiver is not intended to reduce standards and opportunities for kids in terms of their pathways to learning because we still have a continuation of learning going on. Our teachers, students and parents are doing a phenomenal job. This will afford the district the flexibility, so I can ask the DPI and avoid any unintended consequences. That’s why the DPI tapped on the shoulders of the larger urban areas and asked if these waivers would be helpful.”

Legal Counsel Melissa Thiel Collar said DPI has outlined on its website an expedited process to be able to apply for waivers of the statutory requirements for instructional minutes, the civic exams and the educator effectiveness requirements for the school year.

“The governor did suspend the administrative rules with respect to these three topics, but what he’s not able to do is suspend the statutory requirements in regards to these topics,” Thiel Collar said. “The DPI and several other individuals let us know we are still required to request a waiver of these topics. To request a waiver, we are required to hold a public hearing, and that will be held on April 13. The posting was done in three public places and the newspaper.”

The waivers, which can be found by visiting gbaps.org, deal with instructional hours and school days, graduation requirements and educator evaluation.

GBAPS students are also required to take a civics test comprised of 100 questions to graduate with a high school diploma.

The questions are identical to the 100 questions that may be asked of an individual during the process of applying for U.S. citizenship.

The pupil must correctly answer at least 65 of those questions.

The board also approved resignations, retirements, hirings and transfers for certified and non-certified staff for the upcoming school year.

Effective June 10, Karyn Cmelya, a speech-language pathologist teaching at Langlade Elementary, and Jennifer Sims, an English language arts teacher at Washington Middle School, will be resigning.

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