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Brown Deer School District issues final layoffs

Community outcry not enough to spare baseball coach

May 1, 2013

Brown Deer - The Brown Deer School Board last week approved final layoff notices to 19 district teachers, thwarting the efforts of dozens of residents who have implored board members to rethink the decision for high school physical education and head baseball coach Michael Donahue.

Every spring the district calculates staffing requirements based on how many students enroll in specific classes. Under state law, when the district can't guarantee the same level of employment to teachers based on enrollment and staffing needs, those teachers must be issued preliminary layoff notices, and potentially final notices later. Brown Deer is unique this year in that the consolidation from three district buildings to two creates some staffing redundancies, district administrators have said, forcing competitions between some district staff for the same jobs.

Licenses give edge

Administrators have said in light of the competition, the district is favoring those with the most formal training, specifically teaching licenses.

Those issued final notices are: Josh Anderson (high school English), Peggy Brennan (middle school special education), Kristin Bunker (elementary school art), Michael Donahue (HS physical education), Elizabeth Eckman (HS English), Sara Ford (ES school music), Alycia Kender (HS social studies), Adam Kraemer (sixth grade), Denise Lansing (HS math), Donna Okray (seventh/eighth grade guidance counselor), Margaret Paradis-Kent (ES music), Erica Probst (HS government), Jessica Rohr (MS foreign language), Patrick Schmitz (HS theater), Julie Shiff (MS English Language Learners), Kathleen Skopek-Auchter (eighth grade), Jenni Tamblingson (gifted and talented coordinator), Margo Turner (MS ELL), and Kimberly Wright (second grade).

The School Board called a special meeting in early April to allow staff members issued preliminary notices to make their cases, at which dozens of Donahue's supporters came out to urge the board to rethink the decision. Board members have received a flood of emails on Donahue's behalf, many of which contain personal and emotional anecdotes from students, past students and district parents who emphasize the impacts Donahue has had on their lives and those of their children.

In the physical education department, Donahue seems to be the odd man out for lack of an Adaptive Physical Education license, the product of graduate-level coursework on teaching physical education to students with disabilities.

Yet, to the supporters who packed the appeal hearing in early-April, and the dozens who have entreated the School Board via email, Donahue's impact as a teacher, coach and mentor far outweighs the lack of a license.

More flexibility

Despite the public pleas, board members commented Tuesday evening that they stand by the administrative recommendation of prioritizing licenses, largely for the financial sense it makes to have licensed teachers who aren't limited in the type of classes or students they can teach.

"The licensures support flexibility," board President Gary Williams said. "The whole thing was driven by economics."

"The struggle was, we have high performing teachers, but we need to make the best decision for the district in the coming years," board member Michael Bembenek said.

As the district continues to calculate total staffing requirements for the coming 2013-14 school year, those issued layoff notices could still be hired back at or below their current level of employment, district Business Manager Emily Koczela said. Donahue did not respond to requests for comment.

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