Spotlight on Locals: Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association (GETEA) President Laura Knutson with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate.  They are joined by GETEA leaders (L to R) Alexis McVietty, Sue Guenther, Karen Shimek, Jennifer Henderson, Amy Schaefer, Cindy Stetzer, and Aaron Ottum.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I asked Laura Knutson, President of the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association, what makes her local strong, she told me, “We have a good working relationship with our administration and our school board. We work together cooperatively.”  

This good working relationship is what led to one of the successes for the GETEA around health insurance. Two years ago, when the district began a process to make modifications in the health insurance of moving to a high deductible plan for all employees, the members of the school board listened to the concerns and fears of the employees and decided to make an investment in health savings accounts to ensure that employees would be able to meet the high deductible, especially on day one of the new plan taking effect. Laura said, “This went a long way toward calming fears and showed a good faith effort on the part of the school board and administration.”  

Cindy Stetzer, high school science teacher and leader of the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association, reiterated Laura’s sentiment about the success of the GETEA in the transition to their health insurance plan. She noted, “Because of our working relationship, the school district took the concerns of the teachers to heart. They listened to us.” Cindy also said that when working with the school district on their compensation model, “We were able to find some common ground.  The district heard us, and we built a plan that has strengths and isn’t as cumbersome as some plans in nearby districts.”  

When asked what makes the GETEA strong, Cindy shared, “It is the people that we have in our local association that keep us strong. We are active, and we have taken time to build good relationships with administration and the school board. Because of that, we have a seat at the table. Additionally, those in leadership roles always keep the lines of communication open.” 

As far as advice to other locals in Wisconsin, Cindy advised, “Focus on your successes, not what’s been lost. And, keep plugging away at this work every day by continuing to foster relationships. When you focus on what you need to best take care of and educate the students in your district, you will be able to see gains.”

Laura’s advice to locals in Wisconsin is, “Keep the lines of communication open with administration and your school board. We continue to meet regularly and remain proactive in our approaches to putting our students first and to keeping our schools strong.”

 Thank you to the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association for your steadfast commitment to cooperation, communication and relationship building.  

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.