- Contract talks with teachers continue
By IVY HERRON
Advocate: someone who supports, speaks in favor, acts for or intercedes on the behalf of another, a particular cause or policy.
Teachers took issue with school board members concerning the principles behind the word "advocate" at Thursday night's Clay Community School Board of Trustees meeting at North Clay Middle School.
"It totally amazes me that they say these things and don't think anyone will get upset," said Russ True, president of the teacher's association, after the meeting.
At the July meeting of the Clay Community School Board of Trustees, newly-elected board president Dottie King made a comment that the board was an advocate for the students at Clay Community School Corporation. King says she was explaining the role of a school board, and was not issuing a negative statement against teachers in any way.
"I work in the education field," she said after the Thursday meeting. "Why would I do that?"
But members of the teachers' association heard something different and decided to give the school board something to think about the next time they want to use the word advocate.
Michelle Hunter, who has been a teacher at Northview High School for 10 years, told the board she felt hurt and betrayed by King's remarks at the July meeting.
"For some students, the only pat on the back they receive is from a teacher," Hunter said.
Evelyn Greenwood, a 4th-grade teacher at Staunton, was the first to point out how teaching is never a 4 1/2-hour job, but a way of life. She criticized the board for never pointing out achievements at the elementary level, never recognizing the fact that elementary teachers juggle numerous subjects at all skill levels while maintaining state standards and that the board has never truly understood the love a teacher has for their students.
"I'm known for the 'smiley faces' that adorn my classroom. I use the symbol as a reminder to my students that approaching life with a positive attitude will produce more positive results. Maybe all of you could learn that lesson," Greenwood said, her voice filled with frustration. "Maybe, just maybe, since you keep telling everyone that you have the best interest of this community, its schools, its personnel and especially the students in mind you need to be a little more 'smiley' and uplifting to the teachers. We are the people who deal with students on a daily basis."
Although teaching is a way of life, Amy Wetnight, who teaches eight various art-related courses at Northview High School, wanted the board to realize that the amount of time a teacher spends learning their job, preparing to teach what they have learned and then teaching the student doesn't stop the last day of school in May.
"We don't just get the summer off, like everyone thinks," Wetnight told the board. "I've had a heavy summer of preparation for the new year."
Preparing her art room, working with a group of art students painting a mural in a local business, reading all the new text books and preparing lesson plans that match state standards, learning new software packages and taking a reading for comprehension (RFC) class while part-time teaching at the Swope Museum in Terre Haute has filled Wetnight's summer.
"It cost $550 out of my pocket to take the RFC class, and if I don't take it I can't teach," she said. "I'm teaching a subject that has an uncertain future because many schools have cut art from their curriculum. I've had people ask me why I teach eight subjects. It's not about the money. I have students who need the classes because they want a career in the field and I feel guilty if I take classes away."
But teaching eight classes doesn't give Wetnight financial security.
"I love my job. I love my students. I'm not trying to be whiney, but I live paycheck to paycheck," she said. "I own my trailer, I own the land, I'm responsible. All I'm asking is to pay my bills. This (contract negotiations) is hard on everyone, I just wanted you to have the perspective of an individual."
An emotional Marsha Krisenko, the 2006 valedictorian of Northview High School, also spoke on behalf of the teachers. She credited her past teachers for her academic success.
"I wouldn't be the young woman you see standing here if it wasn't for the exceptional mentors and quality teachers in the Clay Community School Corporation," Krisenko said, fighting back tears. "These quality teachers teach our future."
Board members didn't have much to say when the teachers were finished.
"I don't know how it got out there that we don't like teachers," board vice-president Terry Barr said. "Teachers make a world of difference in a student's life. They go over and beyond what their job calls for. They are passionate people. How it got to this, I don't know."
"There's a lot of contention within this room, and its not a good start. There's a lot of bad news out there, but we're Clay Countians and we're going to get through this," King told the teachers."If we're all really in it for the students, then we don't disagree."
Tomorrow: Highlights from the school board meeting.