West Bend teacher who was placed on administrative leave while challenging the district’s testing system is back to work

Tanja Lohr (2012 photo)

Tanya Lohr (2012 photo)

West Bend social studies teacher Tanya Lohr, who was placed on paid administrative leave after challenging the district’s new testing system, was placed back in her classroom Monday night after her union, her colleagues, parents and community supporters came to her defense. The board announced in front of a packed room that Lohr would be allowed back to work immediately.

Lohr, who is communications chair for the West Bend Education Association, had created and circulated a petition outlining four main concerns that staff had about the new Galileo testing system at the high school. When she met with administration to discuss the petition she was placed on administrative leave.

According to a report by Fox 6 Milwaukee, there was an outpouring of support for Lohr at Monday night’s meeting. Fox 6 reported:

“This teacher puts her students’ needs all ahead of her own,” one parent said.

Some members of the community came to Lohr’s defense, believing Lohr was doing what is best for the students.

“What is happening to our democracy when teachers are not allowed to circulate a petition?” Joy Schroeder said.

In a brief statement, West Bend School District School Board President Randy Marquardt said he could not address specifics of the case but that Lohr would be placed “back in her classroom immediately.”

Parent Kim Roemer presented the board with a petition signed by 1,185 people. The petition reads:

The WBEA is very concerned about the district’s choice to take an experienced, high quality educator out of her classroom, especially the week prior to final exams. Educators know the importance of teachers being with their students during this critical time.

Tanya’s administrative leave came after she spoke with Principal Bill Greymont about staff concerns regarding a threatening statement made by an Assistant Principal, and the chilling effect this statement had on the circulation of a petition outlining staff concerns with the Galileo testing system. Tanya spoke to Principal Greymont in her role as a union representative.

In these discussions, the WBEA felt they had reached an agreement with Principal Greymont wherein he would send out an email informing employees they were free to sign the petition without fear of retribution. Instead, an email was sent out that many employees, including union officers, believed was designed to further discourage them from signing the petition and raising their concerns. When Tanya met with Principal Greymont about his email, she was also threatened with retaliation.

These actions on the part of the employer have led to an immediate investigation by the WBEA, Region 7, and WEAC legal as they raise serious questions about the legality of the employer’s actions.

It is also important to note that there is legal protection for employees acting together for the purpose of mutual aid and protection to raise concerns about their working conditions, which is why it is important to raise our concerns collectively rather than on an individual basis.

According to the West Bend Daily News, parent Roemer told the board she has concerns about the teaching environment in the district.

“Our children’s learning conditions are greatly affected by our teachers’ teaching conditions and right now, those teaching conditions are less than enjoyable,” said Roemer, who volunteers in her children’s classrooms. “Right now, teachers are afraid to speak out. It takes a special soul to be a teacher. These are souls that should be protected and honored each and every day. They should be able to stand up for our children and for themselves without fear of being put on leave, fired and blackballed so they can’t hired by another district.”

Fox 6 report:

You can still sign the online petition:

West Bend school district: Return Tanya Lohr to her classroom!!!

Dear Members, The WBEA is informing you of a situation involving Executive Board member Tanya Lohr. Tanya Lohr has been placed on paid administrative leave. It is important to note that paid administrative leave is not discipline.