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Refocusing on our students

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On Friday, Feb. 18, Hudson schools were closed due to unusually high teacher absences and the limited availability of qualified teacher substitutes. Teachers were encouraged by the local teachers' union to travel to Madison to express their discontent with the governor's budget repair bill. I sent a letter to all staff about the importance of coming to work on Friday. I urged staff to consider other ways to communicate their message outside the school day. In spite of my appeal, enough teachers chose to call in sick to make it necessary to close school.

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Over the last few days, the district's number one priority has been returning students and teachers to the classroom and resuming the learning our students need, which parents and our community expect. To that end, Scott Ellingson, president of the Hudson teachers' union, has promised that teachers will report to work and separate their own political views and actions from the workday. With this renewed and shared commitment, we refocus our combined efforts to support our students and their learning.

We have heard from parents and community members on both sides of the issue, with the greatest majority expressing dissatisfaction. There are a couple of common concerns I want to address. First, concern has been expressed about the loss of student instructional time. Options are being considered for making up this time while trying not to inconvenience families. (Although with an added inclement weather school closure on Monday, this make-up time for students and teachers may limit the options available.) Secondly, questions have been raised about what disciplinary action will result from teachers not reporting to work. The Board of Education will be considering disciplinary action. Decisions will be based on individual involvement, district practice, the teachers' contract and state law.

We have promised parents and community members who have contacted the district that their comments will be shared with staff, administrators, and the Board of Education. If you would like to add comments, you can do so by e-mailing your comments to: connections@hudson.k12.wi.us. There will be another opportunity to share your thoughts with the Board of Education, administration and union leaders at the next board meeting on Tuesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m., in the River Crest multipurpose room. There will be a listening session on this topic at the beginning of the meeting.

I don't know what will eventually happen in Madison to the governor's budget repair bill. Looking ahead many of us are very concerned about the biennial budget bill that is expected next week with anticipated deep cuts to state aid for public schools. The state budget deficit needs to be addressed, and that makes this an extraordinarily difficult time for districts around the state as we wrestle with how to prepare our students for their future with less state funding.

The events over the last couple of weeks in Madison and now in Hudson over the budget repair bill have created dilemmas we have never before faced. They have tried our collective patience; strained some internal relationships; produced a loss of a school day and instructional time; inconvenienced and strained our relationship with parents; and angered many in our community. We could choose to let the recent events divide us as a community, but I for one, have more faith in this community than that. Our students need us now more than ever to come together and create the level of new solutions that are necessary during these tough times. All Hudson School District staff needs your support now and into the future. Let's move forward together and put the recent events behind us in the best interests of our students.

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