SHAWANO, Wis. (WFRV) – The Shawano School District is in hiring mode after losing a large number of district employees this school year.
Cory Bougie, a former middle school science teacher in the Shawano School District, spoke to Local 5 News about why he decided to leave. The school board approved his resignation in May.
Bougie cites a lack of communication and support from district officials as major reasons why he chose to leave. He said he feels like the district is run like a big business because the leaders were disconnected from the rest of the workforce.
Bougie pointed to a recent decision to transition district technology from Chromebook to Apple products as an example of this.
He said that teachers weren’t meaningfully involved in that decision and then there’s been a major learning curve since the district rolled out the new technology.
“We got all these shiny new tools and then we had to figure out how to make them work, there were some teachers who were so frustrated that they just broke down in tears it was ridiculous,” said Bougie.
In a statement sent to Local 5 News, a district official said “we have completed significant work in foundational technology needs and will focus this next year on supporting all of our staff with technology challenges in their daily work.”
Local 5 News looked back at district meeting minutes and videos and talked to former and current district employees to confirm that since the beginning of last school year (Sept. 1) at least 53 district employees have resigned, retired, or didn’t stay in the district after receiving contract non-renewals.
“The number is rough, but the people that are the number is rougher because I know the people who are leaving,” said Bougie.
In a statement provided to Local 5 News, a district official said:
As a District, we are actively working on filling our open positions. We have filled the majority of our administrative team, and are really excited with the applicants and quality of the staff choosing joining our current staff who have chosen to stay and continue making a difference here in Shawano. Our team has been doing an amazing job with screening all applicants and we are pleased with the high quality and number of candidates interested in our district. We have been able to fill most of our hard to fill positions due to our amazing staff who have chosen to move forward collectively and collaboratively.
The Shawano School District has made 18 appointments since the start of last school year. Last month, they announced new principals at four of their schools.
At an early May meeting, the School Board approved a 4.3 percent pay increase for teachers and support staff.
But parents say they’re still concerned. Heather Marquette has a son in Shawano School District’s Special Education program.
Her son is autistic and is entering third grade at Olga Brener Elementary School. She said she moved her kids into the Shawano School District after her son struggled at another district, and the move had been paying off.
“We got here and everything my son needed was automatically done he got the aid he stayed in his classrooms they mixed it up to keep his attention,” said Marquette.
Through resignations, retirements, and contract non-renewals Shawano has lost eight special education teachers including their special education coordinator since the beginning of last school year.
“It’s alarming, I’m nervous, I’m scared, but at the same time I don’t blame them if this was what they needed to do,” said Marquette.
The school district said in a statement that “in both recruiting and retaining our high-quality staff we continue to listen, learn and work together toward improvement.”
Even though he found a job at a new school district, Bougie said he hopes things get better in Shawano.
“My hope is that we get a big culture change from where we are now and where we need to go forward it has to be collaboration getting in the schools and working with our teams,” said Bougie.
Bougie said he also wants to see the Shawano School Board hold superintendent Randi Anderson accountable for the district’s problems mentioned above.
An online petition asking for the recall of the superintendent has almost 1200 signatures. The superintendent is an appointed position not an elected position, so school board members would have to vote to remove Anderson from her position.
A group of concerned parents have also begun circulating a petition to recall two Shawano School Board members.