In the village of Oostburg, Wisconsin (population 2,887) a petition has emerged to halt the dismissal of a social studies teacher just before his retirement. Peter Christopherson has served his community as a teacher for twenty-two years. Judging by the comments his former and present students are leaving on facebook, he’s been doing a great job of not only teaching but modelling how to be a caring citizen organizing help for other communities in Wisconsin.
One alumni wrote:
“I will never forget Mr. C for his warmth, humor, and the way he made complex and dry subjects interesting and accessible-I owe a lot of my knowledge of government and economics to him. And not only was he a fantastic teacher, he was a kind and generous man. About ten years ago when a tornado struck the town of Ladysmith, Mr. C not only organized fundraiser at OHS, but traveled there in person to help with the rebuilding efforts. He has shown so much more class and character than the school board is showing in dismissing him, which is pretty ironic considering the kinds of values they wish to instill in students.”
– from “Oostburg High Alumni Against the Dismissal of Pete Christopherson” facebook page.
According to the Change.org petition initiated by Ben Bartenstein of Waldo, Wisconsin, graduation requirements at Oostburg High School have changed in the past year. Students now need to take more science courses and less social studies classes. As a result, the school board decided it could not justify Mr. Chistopherson’s employment.
Sheboygan Press interviewed the Oostburg School District Superintendent Kevin Bruggink who said that “the future might mean making more of the same tough decisions”.
“Tough choices” has become one of Scott Walker’s stock phrases. He had to know that severely curtailing state aid to public schools in Wisconsin and capping local property tax revenues would lead to the loss of beloved public servants and community stars like Mr. Peter Christopherson.
Maybe the Oostburg school board will find a way to go forward in an honorable way. It starts with what they think they can do. The community thinks they can keep Mr. Christopherson a little bit longer if they try. I hope they will.
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Oostburg is located South of Sheboygan just off of Highway 43.
Here is the contact information page for the school board of Oostburg, WI.
Here’s text from the petition:
On February 20, 2013, the Oostburg School District School Board dismissed twenty-two year veteran teacher Mr. Peter Christopherson a mere one or two years prior to his retirement.
At the school board meeting, the consideration for Mr. Christopherson’s Preliminary Notice of Consideration of Employment Contract Non-Renewal pursuant to Wis. Stat. §118.22 was approved with little discussion or opportunity for public input.
It was stated during the meeting that the process to non-renew Mr. Christopherson had been formulated for the past six months; however, Mr. Christopherson was first notified of the situation the week before the February school board meeting. February is the last month in which a school district can non-renew an employee.
The decision to dismiss Mr. Christopherson is a result of the district’s desire to hire an additional science teacher at Oostburg High School. Over the past school year, the graduation requirements at Oostburg High School have changed to increase science requirements and decrease social studies requirements. The majority of faculty did not agree with the lowering of standards for social studies, but the process was pushed through by the district administration regardless. With the elimination of Mr. Christopherson’s position, the remaining social studies department teachers will now be expected to absorb Mr. Christopherson’s workload.
In response to these recent decisions, a large number of Oostburg alumni, parents, students and community members have expressed their displeasure with the dismissal of Mr. Christopherson and the descent of the district’s high standards for social studies education. This indicates the magnitude with which the social studies courses and Mr. Christopherson’s teaching have positively impacted their lives.
The district’s desire to upgrade science requirements is admirable, but it is not necessary to disadvantage Mr. Christopherson and the social studies requirements in the process. Please reinstate Mr. Peter Christopherson and maintain high standards of social studies education.