Chopped? Vermont “Math Teacher of the Year” 2012 WUHS “Teacher of the Year”

Woodstock Early Bird has learned that among the teachers notified they may lose their jobs is Erin Danner, Vermont’s 2010 “Math Teacher of the Year” and Woodstock Union High School’s 2012 “Teacher of the Year.”  These cuts, made at the suggestion of the School Board Finance Committee and Principal Greg Shillinger, have been made to achieve some $325K in savings. They were announced on Friday,  on a day when students were taking exams. Students apparently witnessed a distraught staff as some had to leave classrooms where they were proctoring tests.

The planned cut in the math department position comes as Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin announced — just last week —  a push to to improve math and science education in the State and as the most recent 2012 NECAP testing results show that only  36% of Vermont 11th graders are “proficient” in math.

Katie Leavitt, Luke Jacobs, Jared Stewart, Ainsley Wilding, Shelby Gault, Elena Santos and Austin Cawley-Edwards gathered at Pizza Chef to talk about their hope the School Board will re-consider teacher cuts.

Katie Leavitt, Luke Jacobs, Jared Stewart, Ainsley Wilding, Shelby Gault, Elena Santos and Austin Cawley-Edwards gathered at Pizza Chef to talk about their hope the School Board will re-consider teacher cuts.

A  group of Woodstock Union High School seniors and juniors got in touch with, and met with, Woodstock Early Bird to get the word out, “Please don’t fire our teachers!”

The kids spoke in support of all the teachers slated to lose jobs, but in particular Math Teacher Erin Danner who they say takes time from lunch and study halls to help them, as well as supporting them with extra SAT instruction. As they spoke of her teaching their faces lit up and they smiled.

Among those concerned students talking to Woodstock Early Bird was Austin Cawley-Edwards. His Mom, Nerissa Edwards,  is also subject to cuts, having her counseling job cut to part-time. Austin says his Mom will not be able to stay in the job if it is cut to part-time as she needs full-time work to help with sending her kids to college.

Among those who gathered at Pizza Chef to brief Woodstock Early Bird was Senior Luke Jacobs who noted Nerissa Edwards is a special person who has been instrumental in helping to turn him around, getting him to understand he needed to graduate high school to be able to make accomplishments in life. Jacobs says Counselor Edwards has helped set him” in the right direction.” He has learned that he wants to include dancing as an option in his life and he has learned that, while not being on Student Council, he wants to make a difference. Jacobs says that speaking in defense of the excellent teachers and counselors at WUHSMS is important and part of the activism he has embraced after spending time with Edwards.

With regards to the proposed cut in Erin Danner’s math position, this student group points out WUHS is not meeting national standards for math and  yet, the powers that be are getting rid of one of the most effective math teachers they know. They say WUHS needs more math, not less.

And then there is the emotion and distraction of the lay0ffs on the students. As one female student said of the cuts and how teachers were informed, “Everyone knows the economy is bad but I didn’t expect to see my math teacher going down the hall in tears.”

The kids have been organizing not just their peers,  but their parents,  to attend a Wednesday evening meeting of the WUHMS School Board which will be considering the Fiscal 2013-2014 budget. They hope to get the School Board to change its mind about the suggested manner in which the cuts have been made.

When asked to outline points they’d like to make to the School Board, these are generally what they hope to say:

1. Look harder for cuts elsewhere in the school system:

a. Administration — The kids point out three “principals” for a school of no more than 600 kids.

b. Offer early retirement to interested teachers — Informally they hear of  approximately 7 teachers possibly willing to take a buy-out.

c. Kids mentioned a program of video conference classes that cost a lot of money but are used by very few.

2. Make cuts based on merit, not just on seniority or lack thereof. (Discussion centered on whether or not such provisions exist in a new teacher contract or not. However, the new teacher contract has not yet been signed. )

Woodstock Early Bird was impressed by the breadth of knowledge these students have about the issue, their balanced and well-researched approach and looks forward to hearing their presentation at the School Board meeting on Wednesday.  We thank them for giving us their perspective on this important issue.

17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dianne on January 14, 2013 at 18:19

    Yes, these kids are AMAZING!! Please come to the school board meeting and support them!! They are the future of this town and this country! I am SO impressed that, although many are graduating in a few months, they have taken a stand for their teachers as well as underclassmen! BRAVO!!!!! (and no…you can NEVER use too many exclamation points!!!!!)…thank you too WEB!


  2. Posted by Rachel on January 14, 2013 at 18:47

    Great job,kids!!!! Wonderful suggestions! Very thought out!!!!!! Your recommendations are far more logical then the School Broad’s!!!!!!!! Excellent point on merit vs. seniority!
    Actually, all valid points, for sure!!!!!! Let your voices be heard….. Best of luck!!!!!!!!! Oh, and very proud, of all of you for speaking up!!!!!!!!!


  3. Posted by Rachel on January 14, 2013 at 18:49

    Oops….. I meant School Board’s( typo)……


  4. Posted by Lance Webster on January 14, 2013 at 20:20

    Frist the school board runs the school not the students second if these students want to look into the real problem look to the union last hired first fired you can be teacher of the year don’t matter! WC


    • Posted by Russell Pejouhy on January 14, 2013 at 20:42

      Unions protect against unfair labor practices, working conditions, and make sure that contracts are upheld. Some board members seem to have selfish motives for serving, some are elected unopposed and think they have a mandate do do what ever their personal agenda is. Putting students first should be their motive.


  5. Posted by Lance Webster on January 14, 2013 at 21:01

    Did the unions protect the teacher of the year ? I’m sure the the the NEA keeps the evil school board at bay WC de Plume


  6. Posted by Diane on January 14, 2013 at 21:32

    The students have quite valid points. This matter is critical to the town and should be examined in greater depth. I am unable to attend the Wednesday night meeting but plan to send a review of and my comments about the line item budget to 1. The district; 2. The union; 3. The media; 4. The state dept of education. I hope that students, parents, and residents voice their opinions.


  7. Posted by Patricia on January 14, 2013 at 21:33

    What a shame. Simply staying in a teaching job longer does not make you a better teacher (i.e. last hired, first fired). We’ve all had great first or second-year teachers and we’ve all had a teaching veteran who may have once been great but no longer cares about his students or his subject. As long as teachers are paid like factory workers (the longer you stay, the more you make) and not by merit, we will have these sad situations over and over.


    • Posted by Russell Pejouhy on January 15, 2013 at 10:23

      If principals did their jobs correctly, poor teachers would improve or lose their jobs. Teaching is an honorable profession and calling. Let’s not put down the teachers for high education costs. Short sighted administrators and school boards along with state and federal mandates are more to blame for our high costs in a state that is growing older with fewer school age children.


  8. Posted by Al Morse on January 14, 2013 at 23:25

    America is lagging behind the rest of the globe when it comes to math and science. This is the last thing that needed to be touched and I believe that Woodstock has made a mistake.


  9. Posted by anna on January 15, 2013 at 01:21

    Who stays and who goes should be based on merit. If the concern is that it’s not “fair” to fire someone who has been teaching for longer, consider this: in the grand scheme of things, whose needs should the school really be catering to, the teachers or the students? The principal or the union guidelines, whatever or whomever it is that determines the “last in, first out” policy, may not think it’s “fair” to fire someone who’s been around for longer, but I think it’s astronomically more unfair to subject students to poor teaching and blatant missinformation.This policy is so wrapped up in its focus on teachers that it ignores the most important people: the students.
    ~ 2012 grad


  10. What I want to know is what everybody does in the Supervisory Building over by the Arena. How many positions did they have cut? Are they all NEA union members?


  11. Posted by Robin Bebo-Long on January 15, 2013 at 08:52

    Erin Danner is an excellent teacher. Her teaching is thorough and deliberate. It would be a shame to lose her.


  12. Posted by Robert Borsh on January 15, 2013 at 14:27

    This school administration and board has ruled with an iron fist and a closed mind for many years now. Mr Pejouhy’s comments are very true indeed. I for one am very glad my children are off in college and (almost) beyond at this point. How long are the tax payers of the towns within the WCSU going to allow tis to go on ?


  13. Posted by Lance Webster on January 15, 2013 at 16:28

    Mr Pejouhy and Mr Borsh Acton said “absolute power corrupts absolutely” it’s not the administration or school board with the power it’s the NEA


  14. Posted by Russell Pejouhy on January 17, 2013 at 08:22

    Mr. Webster, you are the only one who said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


  15. Posted by Lance Webster on January 17, 2013 at 14:26

    Mr. Pejouhy sorry for the lack of punctuation if you read my reply I say (Acton) said absolute power corrups absolutely


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