District says it's working to address staff concerns

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Tom Johnson

BELOIT - There are no plans for a follow-up town hall meeting with teachers, but Superintendent Tom Johnson said the district is working with the Beloit Education Association (BEA) and other employee groups to keep dialogue going on a variety of issues.

"We feel that we had a good start to the year," Johnson said during an interview with the Beloit Daily News. "There was a really good feeling at convocation and people were very excited."

(Late last week Johnson was placed on administrative leave. This interview occurred earlier.)

Johnson acknowledged some staff have concerns about what they consider a high number of administrators, but he counters the challenges, initiatives and unfunded mandates that come down from the state and federal governments require more administrators. While some may say there aren't enough administrators to back them up, others say there are too many, Johnson said.

Johnson said teachers are trained that their classroom is their domain. He said he understands if teachers feel blamed when questioned on student discipline, but he said it's a coaching moment in some situations. Teachers can get into power struggles with students, he said, and that calls for follow-up conversations about the best course of action to take.

As of Sept. 19, Johnson said there had been no requests for administrative hearings, and he attributed it to a renewed focus on discipline by staff members along with directives to administrators that they will be accountable for culture in the buildings.

When asked if there were any staff changes, Johnson noted two principals were moved out of their positions to other roles more geared to their strengths.

Johnson said he opened up this year's administrators' academy with clear directives to follow the code of conduct. He said he bluntly told administrators any students put out of a classroom should not be immediately returned.

When asked about classroom size, he said staffing levels at the primary level are adequate. Like other large high schools, Beloit Memorial High School has class sizes ranging from 24-32 students, he said.

Although there have been reductions to high school staff over the course of several administrations, Johnson said he is committed to looking at the issues and is consulting with a master scheduler about maximizing efficiencies.

Johnson noted there is mixed research on optimum class size and its effect, especially at the high school level.

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