Archive for Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baldwin School Board retains VES’s McCune

Baldwin School Board Member Ande Parks, left, looks and listens as Vinland Elementary School students speak on behalf of teacher Matt McCune at Monday’s board meeting. They once again brought signs to plead their case. The board reversed its vote from two weeks ago and retained McCune as a third-grade teacher at VES.

Baldwin School Board Member Ande Parks, left, looks and listens as Vinland Elementary School students speak on behalf of teacher Matt McCune at Monday’s board meeting. They once again brought signs to plead their case. The board reversed its vote from two weeks ago and retained McCune as a third-grade teacher at VES.

May 13, 2009

Cheers of joy and happiness echoed through the district office shortly after 11:30 p.m. Monday as one Vinland Elementary School teacher was retained.

Matt McCune, VES third grade teacher, kept the job he’s held for three years. His support came out in droves for the two April Baldwin School Board meetings and they were back Monday. A handful of the parents and VES students stayed to hear to final decision.

“We just saved our teacher,” said Fadra Andrews-Mitchell, a VES parent, after the school board voted to retain McCune.

While emotions got the best of McCune Monday night, he expressed his happiness on Tuesday.

“It’s a great feeling,” McCune said. “I was pretty calm last night. That’s just how I am. I figured if they didn’t want to bring me back, there must be something better out there for me.

“It was amazing to have the support I’ve had,” he said. “It’s overwhelming and emotional. You want people to like you and value you, but that kind of support helps keep your chin up and helps you smile. It feels really good.”

After a month of speculation, the school board voted 3-4 to non-renew McCune’s contract, so the measure failed. Board Members Ruth Barkley, Bill Busby, Scott Lauridsen and Josh Mihesuah voted to keep McCune Monday night.

Two weeks ago, that vote was different. The school board voted 5-2 to approve the notification of non-renewal of McCune’s contract at the April 27 meeting. Lauridsen and Mihesuah voted for the non-renewal notification, which was recommended by VES Principal Gus Wegner, that night.

“I figured it would be hard to get more than four votes,” McCune said. “The school board president almost has to vote with their administrator. But four votes is the same as seven votes. I do want to thank the school board for letting me come in and explain my situation. A lot of boards might not have done that, but if it wasn’t for me explaining my side, I don’t know if I would have gotten enough votes.”

McCune’s supporters once again spoke their mind about their teacher Monday night. Nearly a dozen parents and even more students told the school board how much they cared for McCune.

One of the speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting was McCune’s wife, Sarah. Like her husband, she is also a Baldwin High School graduate and long-time local resident.

“Matt left a good teaching job in Lawrence for the opportunity to teach where he grew up,” Sarah McCune said. “Have you ever seen the show ‘The Dog Whisperer?’ Well, Matt’s like the kid whisperer. These kids love him.

“For us, this is like a punch to the stomach, that it’s come to this point,” she said. “We’ve been here and given our time to this district. I want you to seriously consider what you’re doing. This is not about budget cuts.”

Another VES parent, Stacy Leslie, spoke at her third consecutive school board meeting. On Monday, she brought a t-shirt with her. The shirt was given to the students last year for success on the state assessment exams.

“I brought this because it’s a symbol of what the students experienced and accomplished,” Leslie said. “It’s not the administration in this district that gets credit for this shirt. No offense, it’s not the board members that get credit for this shirt. It’s our quality teachers in this district that work with our students that get credit for this shirt. Without quality teachers, this shirt doesn’t exist. As a parent, I need to know that our quality teachers are going to stay in this district so we can have more shirts like this.”

McCune wasn’t the only VES teacher retained Monday night. Four other educators were approved for notification of non-renewal, but were not released. That was done because something in their contracts changed.

One of those employees was Christopher Bulgren (VES and Marion Springs Elementary School music teacher). The other names were not released.

In other news, the school board approved the retirement of Baldwin Junior High School assistant principal Joe Gresnick.


tomfoolery 8 years, 11 months ago

Its about time someone pt the principal of MSES and VES in his place. He is essentially stealing money from the district at over $80,000 ayear and all he does is delegate work and take credit for awards of excellence. This district needs to consider where the budget really needs to be cut. The principal is that one.


Torch 8 years, 11 months ago

Actually both Vinland and MS should be closed.

That would save a lot of salary - which is the biggest expense of any organization.

In any case it doesn't matter - we'll just raise taxes to cover what we need. Remember - it's for the kids!


reparmn37 8 years, 11 months ago

Let me see here. If you make a loud enough stink to the school board, you can change the board members votes to vote the way these people want? What did they do? My goodness! Something happened that worked for the people. (well, for a certian select people) I heard that this 'person' is going to the primary center? If they are sending this 'person' here, which teacher at the primary center will get the boot? The primary center has the required teachers for next year. If they add this 'person' to the staff, they will be over and a teacher will have to be let go to take care the issues. I asked why can't they just keep this 'person' at vinland, or if they must move him, ask the teachers at the primary center who wants to go to vinland, and help that teacher move to vinland. Please let us know what your plans are , school board. If this is bad information, lets say so. Please say it for the newspaper as well on record at your school board meeting.


TheOnlyGreyghost 8 years, 11 months ago

reparmn37~ Please do us all a "favor" and post your next "opinion" directly "here":

I have heard overwhelmingly positive comments about Mr McCune's teaching skills, rapport with students and others (and quite the opposite about Mr Wegman's leadership skills, rapport with students, staff, and parents). I applaud the Vinland community for turning out and speaking up for someone they obviously believe in.

As for your speculation that McCune may be moved to the PC, and your fear that this may cause the release of someone there, I say bring it on. There is certainly at least one teacher there who (despite her arrogant opinion of herself) is sorely lacking in many of the essential qualities of good--and even just adequate--teachers--qualities such as flexibility, a sense of humor, insight, imagination, and basic kindness and respect for kids. Several parents would be happy to see that one get the boot before she damages any more children with her nasty attitude and unfriendly nature.

Unfortunately, one of the very best teachers in the district, Jean Reimer, is retiring after this semester. While she certainly deserves her retirement, it's a loss for future BES students, as she embodies everything that is excellent in the profession.

Maybe some of the district's teachers should take a good hard look at why people get behind fellow instructors such as McCune (and would have done the same, if necessary, for Reimer, the 2 Harrises, Kryzstoff, Verhaeghe, and several other exemplary primary teachers) and would go to great lengths to support their retention.

I can guarantee you that there are several other teachers who, if the community heard they were not being retained, would simply be instructed not to let the door hit them on the.... ..way out. Those who suspect they might be in that group need to be trying harder. Or maybe finding a different profession.


reparmn37 8 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for the compassion.

Have you ever thought that if this 'person' is retained, someone else is going? No not you. Ah, but you will get your wish. You will get me to be silient. When we have to move due to a loss of job, you will still be here, won't you?

Thanks very much. PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND.


TheOnlyGreyghost 8 years, 11 months ago

I believe I did address that possibility--and even expressed a preference for who would get bumped.

I'm not trying to get you to be silent. Obviously, your opinion is as valuable as mine or anyone else's. But if you're going to share that opinion, be prepared for others to respond with thoughts of their own, not all of which will dovetail with yours.

Now, what are you trying to tell us? That you're afraid McCune will take your spouse's job? If your spouse is as good a teacher as McCune seems to be, you probably have nothing to worry about. If your spouse is a lousy teacher (and, unfortunately, there are a few), maybe it would be better for the kids if she moves along...

Do you really think that anyone with kids is going to care more about whether a mediocre teacher & family have to move than they care about the quality of education their kids get? (And, again--if your spouse is a great teacher, what is your worry?) Anyone in their right mind would want the best possible teachers for their kids.

If there is any profession on the planet where merit should count for more than seniority or "sympathy retention," that would be teaching.

By the way, just where did you get this idea, anyway--that McCune would be moved to the PC and replace someone there? I thought the point was that he would remain at Vinland.


NanCrisp 8 years, 11 months ago

When it comes to teaching staff reductions, we must all keep in mind that tenured teachers automatically get precedence over non-tenured teachers. This is the mighty union in action. While the article seems to imply that Mr. Wegner recommended Mr. McCune’s release because he had something against this teacher, it probably was nothing more than an administrator doing his job appropriately in not targeting anyone based on performance, but on tenure alone. That’s the way the union wants it, because if the administrator takes performance into consideration, that gives him/her too much subjective judgmental power. If you think this is unfair to good teachers, then urge your teachers’ union to try to create a more fair system for themselves.

A school principal is very much like a corporate CEO: He/she forms the culture around which everything in the school happens. If the teachers, students and parents are able to do their part well, the principal can certainly take the credit for forming an appropriate culture in which that happens. I wonder how many people who have these low opinions of Gus Wegner have actually had children educated at MSES, and how many are people who have bones to pick with him for personal rather than professional reasons?

From my personal experience, I have had children in BES (when it was just one school), BESPC, BESIC and MSES. The difference was night and day to me. I noted many very alarming things in the culture at BES, to the point that I withdrew my children from that school and have never regretted it one day. My son inadvertently ended up at MSES in kindergarten, and from day one I could see that the school culture was much more positive for everyone concerned. I won’t go into any details or get personal, because I don’t think this is something where people need to get defensive. There is nothing more important to me than the quality of my children’s educations. I will never compromise on their need for personally appropriate academic stimulation, challenge and advancement. Through the years, in my quest for the best, I’ve found two schools that fit the bill to a tee: Marion Springs Elementary School and Bishop Seabury Academy (in Lawrence). I didn’t go into any of these schools with any predisposition to like or dislike them; I just saw what I saw as it all unfolded and I’ve formed my opinions from what we’ve experienced. I know that others have had different experiences. Just sharing mine as a different perspective from those voiced by OnlyGhost and reparmn.


TheOnlyGreyghost 8 years, 11 months ago

I think this is EXACTLY the kind of subject about which "people need to get defensive," or to go on the offensive, as the case may be.

You are speaking to generalities regarding principals being "like CEOs." And, generally, I agree with everything you said. Particularly, however? If you hear what some of the VES parents have to say (especially what they are not allowed to bring to the table at school board meetings), you might alter your opinion of certain administrators and their ability to behave in an objective manner--and, at times, even in a rational manner. I was VERY surprised and disappointed at what I heard.

Totally agree with you on BESPC (would never send another child there with present admin--glad mine are older) but (until recently) had no reason to think that similar things went on at VES, but my previous opinion has been changed by the comments of several independently speaking people I implicitly trust to be fair and open minded.

And yes--sadly, the teachers' union is way too powerful--it protects not only those who deserve protection but also a lot of incompetents and borderline abusive cranks who, I can only assume, went into teaching under the misguided notion that it would be an "easy" job they could coast in. Once reality hit them, they apparently decided to take their bitterness out on the kids. People who do not have the temperament for the job should be weeded out, tenure or not. We do need to rattle cages on that subject.

How much will it cost the district when someone sues them over mistreatment of children? Speaking hypothetically, of course, it is better to decline contract renewal for one tenured b****, come what may, than let her continue to damage one kid too many and have some litigious parents slam the district. Do they have any teachers who have committed actionable wrongs toward students? Oh, you'd better believe it. They are lucky they have not been sued already over a couple of jaw-dropping situations I have heard about (again, from impeccably reliable sources).

Anyway... we are getting off track. Again--is there any actual reason to think Mr McCune will "take" someone's job at the PC or is that just something reparmn pulled out of his...uh......tool kit? Waiting for some explanation, reparmn, or anyone else who can support or refute this claim.


reparmn37 8 years, 11 months ago

That person will take someones job, just not at Vinland. When he was going to persue legal action, the district said he has a job in the district, just not at Vinland. He is "rumored" to be coming to The primary center, thus my concern. Please prove me wrong. I would enjoy being wrong in this case.


reparmn37 8 years, 11 months ago

Ok ghostguy, do your magic and find out what is going on! You seem to know the in and out at the school district.

Is this the Super????


fisher 8 years, 11 months ago

In response to reparmn37's comment last week about wanting to be wrong about McCune coming to the pc. Why would you be upset to have an outstanding teacher in the pc? Legal action was never persued nor was McCune sure he was going to have a job until 11:30 pm that night the school board voted. So before you start spreading lies, you should get your facts straight.


reparmn37 8 years, 11 months ago

Fischer. Welcome to the frying pan. You are right. Legal action was never persued because the board didnt want a suit to deal with. Check your sources......


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