School board report: Educators share struggles of teaching in a pandemic

School Board Meeting Recap Oct. 13

Linda Pfeilsticker, a veteran social studies teacher at Winona Senior High School and president of the Winona Education Association, sees it every school year.

She never sees it this early, however.

“We are March tired in October,” said Pfeilsticker, referring to the fatigue that usually sets in right before spring break every year. “We have a couple days coming up (for MEA weekend), but people are probably going to be working at that time.”

Pfeilsticker was joined at Tuesday night's board meeting (watch here) by fellow teachers and WEA members Dheadra Wang and Elizabeth Wright at the request of board members, who wanted to hear more about the challenges teachers are facing during this unusual school year.

And while the teachers shared the struggles of teaching in a hybrid model, Pfeilsticker also expressed hope that there is an open dialogue between the union and administrators. She said that Meet and Confer is an opportunity for the two sides to work on solutions to the issues raised.

Solutions, however, are hard to come by.

“We aren’t the only district that is facing this,” Pfeilsticker said.

Some of the challenges the teachers referenced were fluctuating class rosters based on students moving in and out of distance learning, the stress and time involved with multimodal teaching and the strain of trying to talk through a mask. 

“We love having the kids there,” Wang said. “We love being able to support them. But we’re struggling.”

The board thanked the teachers for their work and expressed a desire to have them return at a later date.

ACTIVITIES UPDATE: Casey Indra, Director of Activities and Transportation, provided an update on fall and winter activities, sharing the fact that both players and fans are following COVID-19 protocols. 

Limited spectators are now allowed at volleyball games in addition to football games, and all home events will be streamed online at winonaschools.org/live.

MSHSL DUES: Indra also presented to the board about a change to the fee structure for MSHSL membership dues. In addition to the normal fee of $5,630, the MSHSL is asking its member schools to submit two additional payments of $4,500 each to help make up for the loss of revenue from the cancellation of state tournaments due to COVID-19. No action was taken, but the board expressed concern about the additional payments required and directed administration to study more about the issue, including figuring out the ramifications if the payments were not made and the desire to draft a letter to the MSHSL to share their concerns.

OTHER NEWS: The board will meet from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 14 for a work session on the district’s strategic plan. … The board approved the district’s health insurance carrier for the next two years. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s bid represented an 8% decrease in the first year and an 8.5% rate cap in the second year. The full bids are linked here. … The board also set the World’s Best Workforce hearing for Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. The district will review the 2019-2020 World’s Best Workforce plan, propose the 2020-21 plan and hold a public hearing where the community will be allowed to comment. … Director of Finance Kristy Millering also presented a revised Long-Term Maintenance Ten-Year Expenditure Application. It will come back to the board as an action item at the next board meeting.