Foreseeing a September Train Wreck

Foreseeing a September Train Wreck

“When teachers leave their buildings at the end of the week the first thing some of your good teachers will do is start looking for a job that pays them steps and lanes. And they won’t have to look far because every other school district in the U.P. does pay steps and lanes.” – Michael Riesterer, President of the Sandy Knoll School Association

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Authored by Michael Riesterer

This morning, one of our Sandy Knoll teachers asked if I would post my remarks from Monday night’s board meeting:

Good evening. My name is Michael Riesterer and I have a daughter who is finishing her fourth year at Sandy Knoll. I’m also the president of the Sandy Knoll School Association.

The title of my remarks tonight is “Foreseeing a Sept. Train Wreck.”

Usually, at this point of the school year, both kids and teachers are buoyant with the anticipation of summer vacation. But it’s different this year. No, the kids aren’t feeling different; they’re happily oblivious to what their teachers have been through.

What’s different this year is that Marquette teachers will go into the summer without the usual satisfaction of completing a successful school year. And it’s unlikely they’ll still have left that reservoir of enthusiasm which allows them to look forward to the summer when (on their own time) they will do many things to get ready for the next school year. That, by the way, is one of the things people don’t understand about good teachers. Even when they’re not getting paid, they’re thinking about their craft and they’re working to get better at what they do. Another thing people don’t understand is that good teachers start back to work at the beginning of August.

At the beginning of August, good teachers start preparing for the upcoming school year — again, on their own time.

But, it’s painfully clear. This year is different. Teachers will leave their buildings at the end of the week feeling mistreated, disrespected and perhaps defeated. The whole contract debacle has worn them down that much.

Meanwhile, MAPS marches on. There are renovations to complete — initiatives to move forward. And, above all, there’s the Sinking Fund Millage to ramp up for.

Yes, MAPS marches on. And, as I stated at the last board meeting, and will repeat here: “the teachers are not part of the equation.” And that’s the miscalculation I allude to in the title of these remarks: The Sept. Train Wreck.

When teachers leave their buildings at the end of the week the first thing some of your good teachers will do is start looking for a job that pays them steps and lanes. And they won’t have to look far because every other school district in the U.P. does pay steps and lanes. Except, of course, for Menominee and Iron Mountain, the two districts the Mining Journal selected as “examples” in yesterday’s editorial as to why teachers will just have to get used to making less money. But a little research reveals that Menominee and Iron Mountain are not examples of the norm, but rather, examples of districts that are judged to be at risk. MAPS, on the other hand, has been rated for the last two years by Munetrix as a district with “no risk”.

As for the teachers that stay at MAPS and will be affected by the redistricting plan, that could be the beginning of the train wreck I mentioned earlier. Normally, teachers will go far beyond the call of duty for something as ambitious as the redistricting plan. But do you think — given the current circumstances — those teachers are anxious to take on that monumental task? And the T.I.M.E. initiative? What 5th grade teacher is going to have time for that on top of the redistricting upheaval…

And does anyone really believe that teachers are going to enthusiastically help promote the Sinking Fund Millage — as they dutifully did for the last millage? Why would they? Go back to that equation idea again; teachers are probably not feeling part of the equation.

The Sept. train wreck, which I hope you’ll avoid — and the sooner the better — would leave MAPS in a dreadful position on at least two fronts: without the millage there’ll be a lot less money to pay for building upgrades, and because of the upheaval of the redistricting plan, I foresee a difficult start to the school year.

And all that seems like a very unpleasant price to pay for not having a teacher contract in place immediately. A strong fund balance, an increased foundation allowance, increased enrollment, decreased healthcare costs and the lowest possible risk level a district can achieve . . . are all compelling reasons to reinstate steps and lanes.

If you are genuinely interested in growing “MAPS as a Destination District” you must start by making your teachers part of the equation. To “grow” a Destination District means that facilities AND faculty are part of the equation.

Facilities and faculty… You cannot call MAPS a Destination District with one — but not the other.

Thank you all for your attention.