Industrial arts teacher cuts ties with ISD 166

Steve Fleace

Peter Johnson Peter Johnson The Cook County Schools – ISD 166 board was met with a shocking request for resignation by Peter Johnson at their January 5, 2016 board meeting. Johnson, the industrial arts teacher heading up classes in the newly expanded, state-of-the-art, industrial technology center at ISD 166, tendered his resignation earlier that same day with the intention of the very next day being his last with the district.

Johnson had accepted a position beginning January 11 with the industrial arts department at Lake Superior College (LSC) in Duluth. LSC ironically is a partner with Cook County School District to offer college credit to local students for some of the courses they take while still in high school. Board Chair Jeanne Anderson stated that it would have been nice to have some collaboration with LSC in the matter. As of the meeting time no one from LSC had returned a phone call to ISD 166.

The instructor had been with the local district since August 2014 and was present for the ground breaking of the new $1 million, 2100-square-foot facility less than a year ago. He indicated at that time the expansion was one of the main reasons he chose to come to the district.

Board Member Sissy Lunde felt that Johnson was pulling the rug out from under the students in industrial arts and said she is “incredibly disappointed right at this moment.” With budget cuts looming, Board Member Terry Collins said this raises the question of discontinuing industrial arts for a semester and saving the associated costs.

Superintendent Beth Schwarz reported that the district’s attorney had advised not to accept Johnson’s resignation and hold him to his contract through the end of the school year. She said the attorney counseled that at a minimum Johnson should be required to complete the semester which ends January 22. The district could choose to sue for breach of contract if they so desired.

After some debate the board agreed to accept the resignation rather than causing a disgruntled teacher to remain on staff. They did so assuming some good will in that Johnson would be agreeable to assist with the transition to a new instructor in the program.

In his resignation request, Johnson had expressed a willingness to help a new teacher with grading through the end of the semester. Contacted by email the following day, Schwarz conveyed that Johnson had agreed to teach Tuesdays and Fridays until the semester ends.

Schwarz added that the district has posted the opening and hopes to secure a new teacher by the start of the new semester or shortly thereafter. Principal Adam Nelson had been in touch with someone in the community but did not yet have any definite substitutes lined up at meeting time.

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2016-01-09 digital edition

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