“As you’re aware of the ongoing investigation into possible policy violations of a member of the high school. While no decision has been made regarding this matter it is clear from the information that has been supplied to this board there is significant and outright false information being published about this matter. By law the district unfortunately cannot address and correct the specific misleading or false information because as the employer the district does not have the same rights as public employees to go public and share with others their version of the facts of the personnel matter.
This inability to publicly address the situation and correct the inaccurate information that’s being communicated by these individuals puts the district at a significant disadvantage.
This district can not utilize social media in the same manner and to the same extent as the supporters of the employee who apparently don’t care what the facts really are as long as they can blame the administration for the situation and absolve the employee of any responsibility for the choices she made regarding her own behavior.
The district holds all staff members to standards of behavior that this community has the right to expect of any employee of the district regardless of the subject matter of an interaction between a staff member and an administrator.
When the administration receives information that those standards may not have been upheld the board expects the administration will conduct a thorough investigation of the matter that is exactly what is happening here.
The board fully supports the administrative actions in investigating this situation.
Finally we also agree with the administration recommendation to place Miss Lohr back in her classroom immediately.”
There is another controversy brewing in the West Bend School District, but it is difficult to discern how much of a controversy it is yet. Here’s a primer:
Last year the school district implemented a new assessment system called Galileo. Previously they used another system, but this one allows for more online use and has some other features. Also, it saves the district about $62k/year compared to the previous system. Here’s the email the district sent out yesterday with some explanation.
The teachers union and some of the teachers oppose the use of Galileo. They complain about some of the mechanics of Galileo, but those complaints would apply to any assessment system. The root of the agitation seems to be the fact that the results from assessments will be used for a part of the teacher evaluations.
As part of their opposition, union officials were circulating a petition in the schools opposing Galileo. You can read the petition here. So far, it’s all fine and good. The administration implemented a new system. Generally speaking, people don’t like change and, in this case, unions don’t like objective assessments being used to determine teacher performance. So there was ongoing discussion happening.
Then, something went sideways to escalate the situation. In discussions with the principal – presumably about the petition – Tanya Lohr was put on paid administrative leave. Lohr is a teacher and a long time liberal activist in the district. According to the union, she was speaking with the principal in her role as a union official – not as a teacher.
That’s really all we know about that. The union is saying that Lohr was unjustly put on leave to silence her or intimidate teachers into silence for opposing Galileo. The district, of course, can’t give their side of the story because it is a personnel issue. The very procedures and secrecy that the union demands forbids the district from commenting. So take what the union is saying with a grain of salt.
We do know that Lohr has a history of aggressively advocating her opinions regarding the functioning of the schools and has run afoul of the administration in the past. We do not know if she was already on a performance plan or violated any previous agreements with the district regarding her behavior. We also know that because of Lohr’s previous work history and knowing the inevitable backlash that would occur, it is exceedingly unlikely that the district would have put her on administrative leave without substantial cause.
Lohr’s disciplinary action has precipitated a response from many parents, teachers, and the union – particularly since it comes on the eve of finals.
That’s the story, but more questions remain. The cynic in me has me very suspicious about the timing of all of this. Things like this do not happen in a vacuum. The filing deadline for the West Bend School Board was the day before Lohr was put on leave. There are two seats up for election and five candidates on the ballot. One incumbent, the school board President, Randy Marquardt, is running for reelection. He is a conservative and leads the slim conservative majority on the board.
How convenient is it that this “crisis” has been precipitated and the teachers agitated on the eve of a school board election that could oust the conservative board president and tip the majority to the liberals? The answer is “very.” In fact, Waring Fincke, our local socialist agitator and Democratic Party official, started using this as a political wedge for the election within hours. And the commenters have done us the courtesy of pointing out the candidates who they believe will advocate their pro-union views:
As I said at the beginning, it is difficult to tell how much of a controversy this all really is. It could range anywhere from a tyrannical administration foisting a flawed assessment system on teachers and acting egregiously to quash their opposition to a completely fictional crisis manufactured by the union and a few activists to agitate the electorate before a school board election. I’m leaning to the latter part of that spectrum of possibilities.
Tanya Lohr, an aggressive liberal activist and teacher in the West Bend School District, has been put on leave. Here’s the statement from the union:
Tanya Lohr has been placed on paid administrative leave. It is important to note that paid administrative leave is not discipline. The WBEA is very concerned about the district’s choice to take an experienced, high quality educator out of her classroom, especially the week prior to final exams. Educators know the importance of teachers being with their students during this critical time.
Tanya’s administrative leave came after she spoke with Principal Bill Greymont about staff concerns regarding a threatening statement made by an Assistant Principal, and the chilling effect this statement had on the circulation of a petition outlining staff concerns with the Galileo testing system. Tanya spoke to Principal Greymont in her role as a union representative.
In these discussions, the WBEA felt they had reached an agreement with Principal Greymont wherein he would send out an email informing employees they were free to sign the petition without fear of retribution. Instead, an email was sent out that many employees, including union officers, believed was designed to further discourage them from signing the petition and raising their concerns. When Tanya met with Principal Greymont about his email, she was also threatened with retaliation.
Bear in mind that this is one perspective. Unfortunately, since it is a personnel issue, the school district is not allowed to tell their side of the story. Given Lohr’s history, I doubt that the district would have taken this action, and risk the inevitable backlash from West Bend’s vocal liberal minority, without ample justification.