Green Bay council adopts resolution to support in-person learning
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council adopted a resolution supporting the Green Bay school district for its decision to return to in-person learning at its meeting Wednesday, Feb 17.
However, it didn’t receive the same unanimous support from two weeks ago.
“After a pretty rough meeting a couple weeks ago, and before that the committee – that was controversial, that perhaps the City of Green Bay did not have its best moment,” said Jesse Brunette, city council president. “We can make this a good moment by voting to affirm support of the Green Bay Area Public School District, because they made a very tough decision. I watched those meetings, it was a very tough decision. I believe they made the right one. Some of you might not. Twelve to zero, we removed all the controversial parts and amended the title to make it even less controversial, to me it’s a pretty simple vote.”
Though much of the language some alders characterized as controversial and subjective was removed, some were concerned with the resolution’s original intent.
“In no reality was this resolution ever intended to support the Green Bay school board,” said Barbara Dorff. “When this resolution came along, the intention of this resolution was to pressure the Green Bay school board into opening quickly and safely. To say now this resolution is all about supporting the Green Bay school board, I’m sorry, I don’t buy that. That was not what it was ever about. And in any case, this is not our role.”
District 3 Alder Lynn Gerlach echoed Dorff’s concerns.
“This is motivated by a divisive and loud issue that people have brought forward, it’s not about support,” Gerlach said. “At its root, at its beginning, it was never about supporting the public schools. It was about catering to people who were making a lot of noise in a very oppositional frame. We have to admit that, that’s the truth. That is where it came from. It came from pressure from the outside to get us to step over the bounds and do what we should not do.”
Dorff made a motion to receive and place on file, which failed with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Eric Genrich.
“I am going to vote against receiving and placing on file, but I do want to say that the way that Alder Dorff and Alder Gerlach characterized the original story of this resolution is accurate,” Genrich said. “I think it did start off a very divisive topic, the language needed some work and I think the council did a lot of that work as a legislative body to improve the language.”
Genrich stressed the importance of the city’s support for schools.
“I think it is really important to keep in mind that some of those kids and some of those families that are struggling most, are going to continue to struggle, even those that are going back,” he said. “It is even more important to note, some of the most disadvantaged kids whose families have been most directly impacted by COVID are going to stay virtual, and we know this based on the survey that Green Bay schools has done. Some of the most disadvantaged families, some of the most impacted will continue to be virtual. So I think it’s incumbent on all of us to figure out what we can do as a city, as city leaders, to support our public schools and support our students, especially as we move into the summer months.”
Alder Chris Wery said the resolution has already had an impact.
“I think it has already had an effect on the board, a positive effect and we see their plan coming forward,” Wery said.
The resolution ultimately passed with a 6-2-2 vote. Alders Brunette, Gerlach, Wery, Brian Johnson, Mark Steuer and Veronica Corpus-Dax voted in favor. Alders Craig Stevens and Randy Scannell voted against. Alders Dorff and Bill Galvin abstained. Alders Kathy Lefebvre and John Vander Leest were excused.
Cooperative governance agreement
Alders spent a significant time in closed session discussing a cooperative governance agreement between the Oneida Nation and the City of Green Bay.
Prior to going into closed session, Genrich said he believes it is a strong agreement that benefits Green Bay citizens and taxpayers, as well as the Oneida Nation and their members
“Obviously, when you enter into a negotiation, there is give and take, no one side gets everything they are looking for, and that is definitely the case here,” he said. “But what I would emphasize is that this has been a really mutually beneficial process, and I think, as I said, it will be a mutually beneficial agreement. Just speaking from the City of Green Bay’s perspective, it has been very valuable. I know that I have learned a lot and have just found it to be a very light and positive process. We are far stronger when we are working together.”
No action was taken in open session.
Council agreed to hold any further discussion or possible action on the agreement until its next meeting in March.