“I would be surprised to see any other handbook as punitive as ours”


The “tools” Walker has handed to local governments are supposedly meant to help cut costs. However the changes to the New Berlin school workplace approved August 29 don’t look like mere cost-savings to me. New Berlin Education Association President Diane Lazewski agrees in MJS: “I would be surprised to see any other handbook as punitive as ours,” I should note that all details aren’t available until 9/8 and changes occur 10/1 according to a document from the blog Teachers Against Walker

Update: This is the final Draft of the School District of New Berlin Employee Handbook which goes into effect 9/1/11

A few of the changes:

–A ‘sick bank’ which allows teachers to donate sickleave to seriously ill colleagues will be eliminated.
–No set pay for overtime; only stipends
–Elementary teachers work an added 205 hours without added pay.
–Secondary teachers work an added 95 hours without added pay.
and there are odd restrictions such as
–Dress Code: Skirts below knee, no sweatshirts, no jeans, no large logos, no open shirts, etc. and
–The loss of all microwaves, refrigerators, and coffeemakers.

I called a young teacher, E., from Racine just before the meeting. E. said New Berlin’s handbook is the worst of a new crop of handbooks he’s seen. Handbooks now serve in lieu of contracts for public school employees where contracts have expired.
E. says: “This turns back the clock. It keeps teachers on call until 5PM for I.E.P meetings (Individualized Education Programs). This is eating into the time of people. Making them do more work for less money”. More details are HERE.

E. pointed out that clearly not all school boards are heavy-handed. The Shorewood School Board has opted for a collaborative approach to its handbook.

I gathered through tweets the meeting attracted 500-600 people, with incoming drivers having to park very far away. At the very beginning of the meeting, the board met privately for a time, sending complaints of undemocratic process and even illegal meeting practices through social media [claims I have not checked into.] I got conflicting reports on the composition of the crowd. A MJS reporter tweeted that there was a 50% pro-handbook and 50% anti-handbook audience.

A mass of anti-teacher residents booed and catcalled the teachers and their allies while they gave public testimony. And I’ve now seen three reports via social media that candy pacifiers were used to taunt teachers – supposedly an idea of the Queen of mean radio ranters, Vicki McKenna.* According to WEAC, at least 3 other right wing tak radio personalities called for citizens to oppose teachers: Belling, Wagner & Charlie Sykes.

The school board meeting culminated in a mass walk out after two anti-teacher visitors spoke. Following, a unanimous school board vote approved the employee handbook.

This video from conleymedia illustrates the devastating impact on teachers through Dale Destache’s testimony. By the 5:09 mark, Dale’s testimony is interrupted frequently by the anti-teacher crowd with yells like “Boo hoo!” [this link jumps straight to that moment]

[see more of the entire school board meeting at conleymedia’s YouTube channel]

E. is with a group of teachers that has attended Kaukauna and Greenfield school board meetings in solidarity with local teachers who were also facing similar but less severely punitive handbooks.

A school board meeting in Greenfield became ugly and police were called, E. says, because the board was very adversarial to the point of sneering at teachers. I just watched a WISN report which said that Greenfield board members were very angry that teachers from outside the district came to cause “chaos”.

I knew that once again, E. and his colleagues would be accused of being outside interlopers instead of natural allies with New Berlin teachers. I asked how he would respond to this. He said,

“We need to be at these school districts because we’re next. We believe the fights we began are now at the school board. School boards are now “ground zero” as opposed to the Capitol. We all pushed on recalls. Now we need to be at school board meetings. Next we’ll recall Walker.”

About 2/3 of Wisconsin’s school boards have created employee handbooks after passage of Wisconsin Act 10 stripped collective bargaining rights. The remaining 1/3 are still functioning on contracts that are grandfathered-in such as Janesville’s which is functional into 2013. My informal survey of schools across Wisconsin suggests that most new school handbooks are good for 1 year only.

Below is a screenshot of WTMJ’s latest anti-teacher story. A facebook friend, Cyndy S., says the station’s headline first called educators “teachers” then “union thugs” then finally “locusts”.

*There is a Vicki McKenna Class Dismissed facebook page, now

*I just want to write down somewhere that I might own the phrase “the Queen of mean radio ranters, Vicki McKenna” now, but feel free to repeat that all you like.

If you’d like to see what WISN produced…

and here’s what MJS printed. Notice the photo they selected to represent the audience.


  22 comments for ““I would be surprised to see any other handbook as punitive as ours”

  1. XanRules
    August 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    The final handbook can be viewed here.

    Looks like they took out the coffeemaker and sick bank provisions, thank God.

    Still a travesty.

    keep fighting the good fight.

  2. NBBrad
    August 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    This is sad! I was at this meeting. Wow how this story is one sided and slanted! This had nothing to do with “Hating the Teachers” and everything to do with the blind and outdated antics of the union. I am pro teacher, pro student and pro consumer (New Berlin tax payer of which I am one!). I have not read the handbook but I will. There is a realistic middle ground that can and should be reached with the goal of the best education for our students while not being held hostage to outside unreasonable union demands and expectations.

  3. August 31, 2011 at 3:06 am

    People, the sky is not falling, all conservatives are not teacher-hating-union-busting-Vicki McKenna wannabes whose only goal in life is to make all your lives miserable. PLEASE!!! I have yet to hear anyone give some FACTS that support the claims you all have been whining about all year. The world is not going to come to an end, no one owes you a thing when it comes to your jobs. Life is not a series of “do overs” every time things do not go your way.

    Grow up and debate the issues on the merit of facts rather than being a bunch of bullying babies who think recalls and cat calls are the way to change people’s minds. When you can intelligently enter into a civil debate on why you believe the public workers in Wisconsin have been dealt such a bad deal, I will be more than happy to listen.

    • XanRules
      August 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      So you’re upset that people can’t debate with facts and result to insults instead of civil debate, and then in the same paragraph you tell us to “grow up” and call us a “bunch of bullying babies.”

      Got it.

  4. beija_flor4
    August 31, 2011 at 2:50 am

    If anyone doubted the MJS had a pro-tea party slant…As someone who works for MMSD (not as a teacher), I’m not surprised that things have gotten somewhat ugly in other school districts. There really needs to be a show of popular support for all WI public school district employees, and tea partiers with their privatizing, public-employee-smearing agenda need to be put in their places.

  5. Chris
    August 31, 2011 at 2:42 am

    The event captured by this video offers a very important reflection on the state-of-affairs in WI and in the USA. At a very basic level, the video shows adults behaving in a very (ill-behaved) childish manner and shows strong polarization one might see at a Vikings-Packers game. In other words, about 50% of the crowd (and America) have jumped into the crowd of the Tea Party supposed “free-market” craze, and 50% remain energized by the 20th century American principles of a strong middle class bolstered by a balanced socialist-capitalist system (in the current example above, in support of dignity for our hard-working teachers). The subject matter at hand is very depressing (i.e., I am dismayed by the continued dismantling of our democracy and middle class in favor of rugged individualism and corporatism, which includes the degradation of our public education system, as evidenced in the personal accounts in the video), but the negative reaction by many in the boisterous crowd should probably be put into context. We are now into several decades of the destruction of the fairness doctrine. Propaganda in the mass media has really had an ill-effect on the collective intellect of this nation. Moreover, it has really been strongly influenced by the plutocracy that has the monetary power to control the messages. In a time of major economic distress, the people are more easily manipulated by propaganda that capitalizes on fear.

    It may be the case that our only true consolation may be the test of time. We are hell-bent as a nation in following the utopian vision of Ayn Rand into a de facto plutocracy that is anything but free market or true to Rand’s ideals in reality. This large and rapid shift in public opinion is in part thanks to propaganda, but also due to the American culture of individualism and our current hard economic times. Because of the trend towards a new robber-baron era, we shall once again relive some aspects of the challenges that eventually led to laws and societal changes that fostered the golden age of America (mid-late 20th Century), and hopefully we can rebuild a system of government, locally and nationally, that facilitates maximal utility for all. In the meantime, I don’t know what we can really do, other than to remain calm, patient, and continue to stay true to the principles that are scientifically and ethically supported.

    My deepest gratitude to our hard-working public servants, in education, and all of the other hard-working individuals in state and federal careers.

  6. Robin
    August 31, 2011 at 2:31 am

    On a serious note, feel free to try to home school your own kids, you Philistine barbarian ingrates. On a lighter note, you lost all the teachers (who get up at 5 a.m.) at “no coffee makers”.

    A weary,over-educated, under-appreciated locust. (A plague on ALL your houses!)

    • Eric L. Cila
      August 31, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Actually, I AM homeschooling my children. Your system has utterly failed my gifted children. Name calling started with the teachers who lecture us all on bullying. I have personally not thought of teachers this way even while disagreeing, you Jackass!! Oops. Should we “Recall” your comments or mine?

    • bryssy
      August 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      As a public school teacher, I did just that. My kids are homeschooled and always will be. Teachers are disrespected all across our country. Frankly, I’m over helping other people’s kids, now I’m helping my own. Love you, Locust!

  7. Kim Trebesch
    August 31, 2011 at 2:26 am

    I am so distressed by what is going on in Wisconsin from here in TX. I have followed all the struggles you’ve been having there and I empathize with you. We’ve seen some similar measures here with the cuts to education where thousands of teachers have been let go. I know Rick Perry is associated with Scott Walker through the common group ALEC which I’m sure you’ve heard of since they are the ones driving all these similar laws across the country with Republican governors. I digress. My mother is a retired school elementary school teacher. She did a remarkable inovative job tailoring teaching methods for individual students who shw realized each learn differently. She became very discouraged toward the end of her career with having to teach to the test and go through what she called the dog and pony show when evaluators came in to evaluate her. If the Republicans have their way this country will be unrecognizable to us in a very short time. Please know that the country is behind you in your efforts to combat the destruction of vital programs and institutions. You have inspired us and strengthened our resolve to stand up and stand strong to ensure our country comes through these trying times stronger on on the other side. Keep fighting and keep the faith. The country is with you!

  8. CJinMadison
    August 31, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Seriously… are you guys offended by the Conservatives actions here? Seriously?

    Have you not been paying attention to the Capitol and surrounding businesses these past eight months? The shouts, the taunts, the bull-horns, the “Shame, Shame, Shame!”, the vulgar signs, the constant interruptions of legislative events, the interruptions of private events (think Special Olympics and Opportunities, Inc.), the invasions of private businesses, the intimidation of common citizens simply going about their lives… Seriously? A little back-at-ya taunting can bring tears to your eyes?


  9. August 31, 2011 at 1:11 am

    I am stunned by the small-minded vindictiveness of all this – and amazed that there are enough morons around to give it “legs”. I will link to your post and do my small part by trying to think of something cogent to say in support (right now, I can’t because I’m too angry and I’d just end up typing a stream of abuse directed at Walker and his herd!) As a parent, I wish you and all teachers the best of luck in tipping the balance back to sanity.

  10. Dianne
    August 30, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    This is just shockingly awful. I’m 51 years old, and it makes my head swim to see how things have turned upside down. How can it be that the people who consider themselves “conservative” are now heckling, insulting, and wishing all manner of punishment upon teachers, of all professions? Teachers! (Not to mention police and firefighters!) I mean, when I was growing up, and until just recently (or so I thought), the *conservative* position was to respect teachers. I hate to go all “back in my day” on you, but honestly! It was conservative parents who would not stand for any badmouthing of teachers. What the hell is wrong with people? Clearly, it’s now the progressives and Democrats who have to stand up and be the real conservatives–the ones trying to actually conserve, to preserve our institutions and what’s good in our way of life.

    They’re even taking away their refrigerators, microwaves, and coffee makers?

    Good freaking grief.

    • August 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      ‘be the real conservatives–the ones trying to actually conserve, to preserve our institutions and what’s good in our way of life’ – I’ve been thinking about that lately. That there is opening for whoever will take responsibility, act like a grown-up, and acknowledge the long-term needs of the American people, the Wisconsin people, and of course make a concerted effort–not just pay lip service. For me that means *great reduction in war expenditure* followed by healthcare, jobs, clean water and air, housing, quality education. Corruption and corporate personhood rule. Unless we sensible citizens decide to rule again en masse. I used to think we needed the right President. Maybe it’s really that we need the right *us*. A constant force.

      • Anne
        August 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm

        “Maybe it’s really that we need the right *us*.”

        I think that’s key. At this point, we’ll never get the “right” president; we’ll only get the president that the corporate donors decide we should have. We as a people need to learn how to rely on ourselves/each other, not some lesser-than-two-evils leader.

      • ig
        August 31, 2011 at 9:47 pm

        Huh??? There is no better organized group than the Left Wing in America. You are masters of grass roots agitation. You own the media. You are far better funded. Your policies have engendered a huge underclass voting bloc. Leftist are masters of race and class warfare. Saul Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals has entirely permeated the American Left – it is THE go-to book of guidance for your politicians. In a mere 50 years the “Liberal’s” Marxist polices have become main stream. Your inability to see these facts indicates you are truly delusional. Liberalism IS a mental disorder. This is why so many conservatives are fighting the Wisconsin battle hard – our backs are against the wall. Unbelievably, the crazy Marxist’s have nearly won.

        • August 31, 2011 at 11:18 pm

          I really should write a longer response, but, with limited time: People who talk about Marxism around here are generally more academic and disconnected from things like what’s going on in a school district and they are not your garden-variety Wisconsinite. Marxists might be like 0.01% of the people you saw protesting here. The other stuff… come on. Sounds like some talking point crap.

  11. Icefishinglady
    August 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Dear God, what are we coming to? This brought tears to my eyes…

    • August 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      You are having an appropriate response. Truly. My 21 year old walked by while some of the jeering was going on – specifically a “boo hoo!” from the anti-teacher people and he stopped in his tracks to tell me that sounded like a moron. He didn’t even have to know what the issues were to catch on.

  12. Gareth
    August 30, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    As these punitive, vindictive right-wings rules are activated in school systems I believe the stage is being set for a state-wide teachers’ strike.

    It would also be appropriate for other non-teacher union members and decent citizens to show up at these meetings to take on the teabag thugs, physically if necessary. There is no reason why our teachers should have to take physical abuse from the moronic Republican bully boys.

    If police won’t prevent assaults from taking place in public meetings then it’s up to us to defend each other. If school board meetings in Wisconsin descend into monthly brawls that’s just the price we pay for living in Fitzwalkerstan. Collective bargaining may start looking like a good alternative after a while, even to Republican scum.

    • August 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      I’m glad you’re quite angry. Appropriate. I have never been a person to think “strike” but times are changing me. As somebody who reads about what’s going on, has been in the street, and heard 1st hand accounts, I would completely support a statewide teachers’ strike. I’ll say I’m going to stick to advocating non-violence but a very strong confidant presence and certainly, defending from any attack that comes from “the other” would be an instinctual reaction for any one of us,even people like me who are only 5’4″ and weak – – we want to protect. I just don’t want to see violence become ‘the norm’. That’s when Walker can pull out his national guard/security forces the way I suspect he wants. Consider also that we’re going to have increased use of conceal/carry weapons. [Yeah…that sucks.] That all being said, the right to assemble and to use freedom of speech must be constantly exercised or rights are lost. We have to be courageous and reach to be our best selves. We should be present in solidarity with teachers. This digital stuff we do on our computers only goes so far.

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