It was a school board meeting at Blesch School in Menominee Thursday night that lasted for nearly four hours. It started with three hours of public comments. In the end, teachers, some who were alumni of that very school, were laid off. Board officials stand by the decision and say if they can't reduce per employee costs, they must reduce the number of employees.
"I've been officially laid off by the Menominee School District. And yes, the board just approved it," said Joe Noha who has been a part of the Menominee School System as an educator and coach for 19 years. It was an emotional meeting for Noha, students, parents, and teachers as they made their plea to the board. One by one they asked the board to reconsider and vote no on the layoff proposal.
"I just really hope that you guys reconsider all the decisions that you're making," Noha said as he addressed the board.
"My own father I've had as a teacher. You cannot replace people like that. They are irreplaceable," said one speaker. After nearly three hours of public comments and not a single person speaking in favor of the layoff proposal, the board made its decision. According to Noha, four staff members were cut and more were minimized to partial schedules. The public voiced concerns over the big issue at stake: a first year evaluative process that some in the crowd say is untried and inaccurate. Superintendent Erik Bergh says the fund balance that insulated the district from having to make these tough choices is gone. Also a factor was declining student enrollment. Bergh said they've averaged a loss of 50 students a year over the last 35 years.
"On a human level, these decisions are heartbreaking for all of us. All of the people on this list are wonderful people and have touched many lives," said Bergh.