Retiring teacher rings board's bell on way out

Larson says union concerns have not been addressed


FORT MADISON -  A retiring Fort Madison school teacher took a couple minutes Monday night to ask the school board to look into concerns the teachers' union had forwarded to a school official last year.
Fort Madison Elementary teacher Julie Larson spoke during the open discussion agenda item Monday and told the board that concerns  the teachers’ union had related to the culture of the district have not been addressed by Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater.
“Last year (Fort Madison Education Association) FMEA presented Ms. Slater with staff concerns. The concerns were related to climate and culture and have not been addressed or acted on,” Larson told the board.
“Teachers feel micromanaged by not being allowed to teach reading and math in ways to best meet student needs.”
Slater responded via email to Pen City Current writing that the district provided a total of four release days for two FMEA leadership staff to talk with teachers in each building to get input and feedback regarding things that were working well in the District, and areas that needed improvement.
“That data was then utilized at monthly follow up meetings during the school year that included myself and FMEA leadership,” Slater wrote.
“We used that time to collaborate, to learn together, and to put actions into place to keep improving the District.”
Larson said the curriculum resources provided to teachers are scripted and don’t allow freedom to teach students in ways that are engaging and thought provoking.
“In addition, the scripted curricular resources do not need to waste teachers’ time intentionally planning,” Larson said.
“Teachers are the ones building relationships and making connections and know students. Teachers should be trusted.”
Slater said the District has adopted evidence-based curricular resources that are used to teach the priority learning standards.
“These priority learning standards are identified by teacher teams who have determined what is needed for student success in each grade level and course,” she wrote.
"The job of a teacher is very difficult and challenging.  We value and appreciate our teachers, our support staff, and all of the employees of the Fort Madison Community School District.”
Larson listed 10 concerns including regular shifting of principals from one building to the next, creating unpredictability for staff and students. Other issues included lack of communication; not all administrators attending PLC meeting or IEP meetings to support staff and students; and called the lack of discipline procedures “astounding”.
Larson also cited a lack of cleanliness in the schools, calling the conditions “deplorable”.
“I wonder if you have considered the many staff who are departing and have asked them why they are leaving?” Larson asked.
“I hope that each of you would be willing to pull back the curtain and take a good look at how to support students, teachers, and staff at FMCSD.”

Fort Madison Community School District, teacher, address, concerns, Fort Madison Education Association, union, Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater, Julie Larson, retired, Lee County, Iowa, Pen City Current


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