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The Tomahawk Leader is a state and national prize-winning weekly newspaper serving the scenic Northwoods area in and around Tomahawk, WI.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 10:50 pm 
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Job security can be tenuous in workplaces that face hard economic times. Many employers are facing financial losses and probably finding themselves dealing with unsettling choices that could affect the lives of their employees. Uncertainties also exist in other sectors, including one that doesn't hinge on products sold, but on people served: more specifically, the Tomahawk School District.

Although tough decisions lie ahead, we felt the recent meeting between members of the local teachers' union, Tomahawk Education Association (TEA), and the School Board's Negotiations Committee was a step in the right direction. The two groups met face-to-face, in an amiable, open fashion to hear the TEA's concerns and give them a chance to generate input about a potential half million dollar shortfall in school finances. In our many years of covering the School Board, we personally have not sat in on a similar session, and can only imagine that most meetings between union members and district negotiators are a bit less friendly.

School Finance Committee chair Scott Martin has repeatedly said he's not trying to shift responsibility by seeking ways to invite public input into the decision-making that precedes action on the financial shortfall. He just thinks the decisions will make more sense if the public is informed. We can think of no better group who needs to understand than the employees themselves; the people in the classrooms day after day.

Of course, the tone of such a meeting could have been unproductive if focus switched from a general overview to a personal one - that in which individuals fight only to save their own jobs and/or programs. To their credit, the TEA during and after the meeting, acknowledged that some positions might not be saved and told the board members that the district would not be good business managers if less expensive staffing options weren't pursued if available. They said their membership was most concerned about continuing to offer courses and programs that benefit the kids.

We join the TEA in hoping that this was not the first such meeting they and negotiators and/or board members have in the months and years ahead as tough economic decisions are faced. District Administrator Al Prosser made it clear that this is not as bad as it gets: "The scary year is the year we haven't seen yet," he warns.

The decisions may not be any easier, but perhaps, by knowing both sides of the coin, they'll be better decisions or more tolerable.

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