Kelley gives up sabbatical; GM board votes no raises next year

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

At the Green Mountain Unified School District Board meeting on Thursday, May 21, Chester-Andover Elementary teacher Frank Kelley asked that his request for a one-year sabbatical be rescinded and he be re-instated for the 2020/21 school year.

CAES teacher Frank Kelley explains his decision to give up the sabbatical granted him by the board before the Covid-19 crisis

Approved at the Oct. 17 meeting, Kelley’s paid leave was intended to give him an opportunity to complete his certificate of advanced graduate studies and an endorsement for teaching middle school social studies. Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Meg Powden recommended the leave and the board voted to approve it with little discussion.

But in budget wrangling at subsequent meetings, several members expressed regret that they had not taken more time to consider the implications of paying Kelley for the leave while needing to hire another teacher to replace him. The sabbatical was discussed this spring in an executive session, after which no vote was taken.

On Thursday, Kelley told the board that “the economic situation along with the need for stability for my students have prompted me to reconsider my sabbatical request,” apparently in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, the shutdown of schools and businesses and many job losses.

Board member Michael Studin apologized to Kelley for the way he said the administration had “mismanaged” the request from the start. Powden said she strongly disagreed with Studin’s assessment.

After a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously to withdraw the leave and re-instate Kelley as a full-time grades 5 and 6 teacher.

Board votes its bargaining decision – no teacher, admin raises

Appearing as “Options for fiscal year 20/21 budget” on the evening’s agenda, the new business item was actually an piece of old business associated with an improper executive session held with the board of the Ludlow-Mount Holly school district.

Board Chair Joe Fromberger asks members if they want to vote on the decision they arrived at in their May 7 executive session

That session considered whether the boards would put a salary freeze on its negotiations with teachers and support staff. But after they came out of executive session and were into another discussion GMUSD board chair Joe Fromberger objected to new hires, noting they had just decided not to give any raises.

At Thursday’s meeting Fromberger asked if the board wanted to revisit that decision. When there wasn’t much reaction, he began to move on, but board member Doug McBride said it was his recollection that they would be voting on their decision of two weeks before. Studin told the board that the teacher bargaining council had met with teachers on Monday and told them of the board’s position.

McBride moved to freeze salaries across the board but that was amended to a recommendation to the board’s bargaining councils to hold salaries in place while absorbing the coming healthcare increases. A second motion was made to freeze compensation for “non-bargaining” employees, which includes administrators and others who are not part of the union.

Both motions passed unanimously.

GM senior goes to school on in-person graduation

The highlight of the evening was a presentation by GM senior Madison Wilson, who gave the board a detailed plan for how a graduation ceremony could be held on the school’s fence-in soccer field using social distancing between graduates as well as distancing between groups of family and friends.

GM senior Madison Wilson outlines a plan for an in-person graduation on the school’s soccer field

In-person graduation ceremonies, which at GM are usually large, family and friend filled affairs, have been put on hold due to social distancing directives as the state deals with Covid-19. The state Agency of Education, however, is making allowances on a case-by-case basis.

But Wilson had done her homework with specific area measurements for individuals and groups with more than mandated 6-foot distancing that, when added up, fit handily within the field. She also provided for things like temperature checks and waivers of liability. Wilson even went so far as to note that the spray paint used to mark out the areas where people could safely distance from others would disappear from the grass after a few mowings.

Wilson’s closing was both clear-eyed and hopeful.

“I would like to reiterate that I understand that I am lowest on the totem pole as far as changing minds,” said Wilson. “But it is time for minds to start changing. And if nobody ever speaks up for change, then change will never happen.”

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  1. Karen Marini says:

    Madison’s family should be very proud of all the time and work she put in to her thoughtful presentation. My heart breaks for all the seniors. I hope the Board will give serious consideration to her suggestion.