Education Notes: Board Uncovers Various Teacher Complaints in Gibraltar School District

President draws few conclusions in study of district culture

Gibraltar’s school board shared some findings Monday following three months of research into the working conditions of educators. Prompted by two untimely resignations during this school year, including a respected physics teacher’s midterm departure, a board committee conducted more than a dozen interviews of current instructors and secondary-level teachers who had left the district unexpectedly or retired early in recent years. 

Those educators expressed concerns such as a deterioration of trust and respect from the administration, a lack of guidance on expectations, and a change from a culture of collaboration to one of demands for compliance to mandates from administrators, according to board President Stephen Seyfer.

He said that because the findings had come from interviews of teachers, the statements pertaining to professional relationships in the high school tended to move the responsibility onto administrators. Nonetheless, Seyfer ordered the findings posted on the Gibraltar schools’ website. 

He said studies of employer-employee relationships often emphasize the importance of trust and respect.

“The only conclusion we reach is, perception is reality,” Seyfer said.

He said the board would continue to take concerns seriously and discuss and monitor the social and working conditions for teachers. 

Board members Angela Sherman and Amie Carriere suggested that elementary-school teachers and former teachers may have similar concerns and should have been interviewed, too. Seyfer said the study conducted this winter and spring focused on the secondary level, which has a different organizational structure than grade schools, often with one-person departments. However, he and the board agreed that solutions and improvements suggested at the secondary level may also apply to instructors and administrators in kindergarten through 12th grade.

New board member Erick Schrier said that in order to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one, the board should conduct an annual survey of employees.

“We’re talking about culture here, and culture doesn’t happen overnight,” Schrier said. “Your climate drives your culture.”

Board Seeks New Principal

The Gibraltar School Board agreed to advertise a job opening for a secondary-level administrator, but members including Angela Sherman suggested that the board might need to cut its administrative budget or reorganize administrative duties. New board member Amie Carriere said the district once had fewer administrators and more students than it does now. Board Vice President Mike Peot said the district needs to post an administration opening now so it can compete for quality candidates by the time the job starts July 1.

Principal Moving On

Hired in 2015 after leading a charter school and the at-risk-students program at Shawano, Gibraltar High School Principal Gereon Methner has accepted a position in another district, Superintendent Tina Van Meer said. The board accepted Methner’s resignation, with Seyfer expressing appreciation for Methner’s commitment to the district and “the leadership he brought us.” VanMeer said Methner was instrumental in bringing in the Google platform for the district, curriculum mapping and more.

Calendar Approved

The board approved a school calendar with 176 student-contact days for the next academic year. Classes will begin on the Tuesday after Labor Day and end June 10.