Under the leadership of Superintendent Susan Borden, her staff, and our well engaged school board, we can look forward to a vigorous future in the DeForest Area School District (DASD): new and rejuvenated facilities, twenty-first century curriculum, professionally career oriented teachers. Of the first two I am enthusiastic. I am hopeful of the third. Personally, I have never voted against a school bond referendum in my thirty-six year residency in DeForest. I will vote for the referendum on April 7th.
The case has been made convincingly for the referendum. The needs were well thought out over many months with many cooks stirring the stew. We need not review them further here. A sound public school system is the best investment a progressive community can make.
The facilities will augment the curriculum enhancement in science, technology, engineering, and math -- the famous STEM subjects we’ve been hearing so much about. The new facilities will help to ground those emphases in the curriculum. The new emphases bode well for solid economic development both individually as careers and jobs and collectively as business and industrial growth. We can assume, as well, a corresponding development in the arts, citizenship, athletics and physical education – all hallmarks of a progressive public education system. You can tell a lot about a community by its public schools.
The only reservation I have is the future professional career quality of our teachers. There is serious unease among a significant number of teachers in the DASD. Some career teachers have already left for more lucrative careers in other professions. Others are contemplating such a move.
What good are professional quality facilities without an equally professional quality teaching staff? It remains to be seen if the new micro-credential or “badge” system of teacher career development can match the old step-and-lane system. Key to the success or failure of the micro-credential system will be pay scales that reward teachers enough to keep them on the job longer than five or ten years. Will we continue to build a set of seasoned, dedicated, career-oriented teachers, or will we turn over our student body to a new set of less experienced teachers every year or so? The new “badge” system is a gamble. Without commensurate salary progression, career development is an exercise in futility in a community oriented, public school system.
My own daughter thrived in the DASD system. I attribute that success to the professional, career teachers and related staff in the DASD, teachers sustained under the old, tried and true career development system. You who have been here awhile can call those teachers by name. Will new teachers stay and make a career of it? Will new teachers develop the same under the new micro-credential “badge” system? Will they be paid what they deserve as they earn their badges? Will they be paid enough to keep them here for the long haul, gaining experience and applying it in our DeForest schools? Or, will they leave for other careers and better paying jobs someplace else?
We must pay teachers well, in order to keep them here, so that our students benefit from the experience their teachers gain only from years on the job. Even if we need another referendum to approve exceeding the state caps on teachers’ salaries; even if we approve, say, another two or three million dollars on top of the forty-one million dollars for facilities; it will be worth it. For what good are the buildings if we don’t staff them with in-it-for-the-long-term professional, career teachers?