Howard-Suamico teacher talks community distrust
SUAMICO – For weeks, district parents from the community have been speaking at Howard-Suamico school board meetings asking for masks to be made optional in the district’s schools.
This week, a Bay Port High School teacher used the community input portion of the Howard-Suamico school board meeting Monday, June 7, to condemn the extra scrutiny teachers have faced from the community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meaghan Lynch, a Bay Port High School teacher, said teachers have been called lazy and accused of not caring about the mental health of their students.
“I’m here to stand up for the teachers of this district who, over the course of the last year especially, have been working tirelessly to serve the very community that is publicly demeaning their profession,” Lynch said.
She specifically referenced the HSSD Advocating for our Students Facebook page, which she said has perpetuated misinformation campaigns and distrust, and also accused her of tyranny and a lack of care for her students.
Lynch said she wants administrators to stand up for the values and integrity of the district and be clear that it does not condone some of the thoughts being spread.
“There needs to be a greater defense of truth,” she said. “We need to build bridges of trust. We need to address the lies that are being spread within the community head-on.”
Lynch was the only person who didn’t receive applause from the public audience upon the conclusion of her speaking time.
Four district parents spoke at the meeting, with a dozen or so more attending in the audience.
Three asked for masks to be made optional permanently.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix released an update June 3 which told families that, upon a recommendation from the HSSD Medical Health Advisory Team, the district will not be requiring masks at summer school, and will instead make them “strongly encouraged.”
Jennifer Grant said she spoke on behalf of several parents. She said the recent high temperatures in buildings not air-conditioned has made masking more dangerous.
Grant cited the story of one parent who said her child, who attends Lineville Intermediate, contracted an impetigo infection on his nose twice due to masking.
She also read an anonymous letter from a teacher who asked for masks to be removed and explained the importance of seeing facial expressions in child development.
Grant said she and other parents wanted clear guidelines regarding what data would be needed for masks not to be required in the fall.
She also asked the board not to make critical race theory a part of future curriculum.
Grant said she took issue with the board’s policy governance model.
Nicole McKeefry, the parent of two Bay Port students, said the board has violated several areas of its board governance and board of education executive limitations policies.
“Year over year, findings of the same issues should lead to escalation and/or corrective action, not a reward with renewal,” McKeefry said.
LaCroix said the district met all of its end-of-year goals from April, which included keeping classes open, maintaining student opportunities, ending healthy and building momentum for September.
Director of Community Relations Brian Nicol said the Brown County COVID-19 burden rate is now at 34 per 100,000 people, roughly half of what it was at the board’s May 17 meeting.
Nicol said no students tested positive in the last three weeks, and, for the first day this school year, zero staff positives or quarantines were reported June 7.
LaCroix said this is thanks to efforts made by staff, students and the community.
“This is a testament to the strength of the protocols we put in place,” he said. “Staff really around this point in time became eligible for the vaccinations, and I think you’ll see the impact of that and certainly the continued mitigation strategies.”
The district has not yet made a decision regarding masking for the upcoming school year, but LaCroix said communication will go out to families before July 1.
Staff engagement survey results
Nicol presented the results from the district’s fourth annual staff engagement survey, which received a record 532 responses.
The district’s results are compared to that of 10 other large districts, mostly from Wisconsin.
The district’s highest-scoring categories were public and parental support and trust, staff member control over their work environment and collaboration/teamwork.
One of the district’s lowest-placing categories was equity, under which five statements showed a 5% or more drop since last year in “satisfied” responses from district staff, and three statements received “satisfied” percentages which placed the district in a low quartile compared to others.
The survey presentation prompted a board discussion surrounding whether results from the survey were being used properly by the district and if the schedule of monitoring reports could be rearranged.
Board member Vanessa Moran said she wanted the board to be able to respond to the survey’s results in a more timely manner.
The board conducts executive limitations (EL) monitoring reports throughout the year looking back at the previous school year.
Because the EL-4: Treatment of Staff report is done at the end of the school year, the engagement survey’s results would not be used for it until about a year from now.
Board member Jason Potts said he agreed with Moran, but also recognized that part of the struggle in monitoring 10 EL policies is that one of them will always have to be last.
The board continued this debate during its discussion of John and Miriam Carver’s “The Policy Governance Model and the Role of the Board Member” and its review of the board’s meeting and policy calendar.
After its discussions, the board voted to evaluate the placement of EL monitoring report discussions at its July 19 meeting.