Shorewood settles on new work rules for schools

But changes still possible in long-awaited handbook

Aug. 29, 2012

Shorewood - After more than a year of back and forth between administrators, staff, and community members, the School Board approved an employee handbook and teacher appendix Tuesday night.

Though the board needed to address two areas of the handbook text before it was approved, board members and teachers expressed their relief to finally have the handbook - required by Act 10 to replace teacher contracts - in place.

"The employee handbook has been worked on for months and months," Superintendent Martin Lexmond said. "I think it's been a very smart process here. It's been very collaborative, (looking back at) when we backtracked all the various meetings and players, and I think it's been done very well."

Though the handbook has been approved, the district isn't done with it yet. On the horizon is the district's "big idea" meeting in January 2013, at which teachers, administrators, community members and the School Board will have the opportunity to examine any defects they may have found in the handbook.

"It's good to have a document, something to build on," Shorewood Education Association President Michael Halloran said before the board meeting. "Now we get to take it for a test drive."

"It's probably going to be an imperfect document," Lexmond said of the handbook, "but I think that's alright."

Indeed, before the board was able to approve it, clerk David Cobb was making note of two sections of the text he would like changed. He suggested, and the board accepted a motion to amend the handbook, that the term "domestic partner," which is defined elsewhere in the text, be added alongside each instance of "spouse" in the Federal Family Medical Leave Act section and in other sections regarding leave - on the condition that the district has the legal authority to do so.

"We consider it in a number of areas," Cobb said. "I just want to make sure that we are being consistent and that we are recognizing domestic partners."

Cobb also questioned the need for a section that outlines fines teachers would have to pay for early release from their contracts in the time frames between June 15 and July 31, and Aug. 1 or thereafter - a policy ostensibly designed to discourage teachers from leaving the district in the busy and often chaotic run up to the beginning of the school year.

Though there was discussion among board members and district staff in the audience over the subject, the decision was made to leave it in the handbook for now and revisit it in January.

"I just want to thank everyone for working on (the handbook and teacher appendix)," said board Vice President Colin Plese after the vote.

"It was a hard task," he added with a grin, "and we have a handbook!"

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