Archive for Sunday, May 16, 2004

City teachers union changes leaders

High school English teacher replacing Kruse as president

May 16, 2004

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Sam Rabiola knows Lawrence school administrators might see the same teachers' faces meeting after meeting.

He's hoping to do a better job reminding bosses that the handful of teachers involved in school committees are there to represent nearly 900 teachers districtwide.

"We're working for everyone to be more visible and more vocal," he said.

Rabiola, an English teacher at Free State High School, on Monday takes over the presidency of the Lawrence Education Assn., the bargaining unit that represents the district's teachers.

The former president, Wayne Kruse, is stepping down after five years at the helm.

Kruse was the first president to teach two days a week, while spending the rest of his time on LEA responsibilities. The arrangement, said Kruse, a sixth-grade teacher at Quail Run School, has helped make LEA a more effective organization.

"I've been able to work more with teachers across the district," he said. "I've actually been able to visit them at their schools. We're a stronger organization now than we were five years ago. I'm not implying we weren't strong before -- we're just stronger now."

Kruse said he thought more teachers were involved now in LEA activities than they were when he started his tenure. Teachers have representation on district committees such as those determining the school calendar, fringe benefits and budget.

"They have that sense of ownership for the district," he said.

Rabiola said recruiting and retaining teachers and improving salary and benefits packages remained major issues for LEA. He said he was concerned young teachers would begin to avoid the district because of three years of layoffs, due mostly to declining enrollment.

Maintaining small class sizes and teacher workload issues also have become top priorities, he said.

"Mainly because of federal mandates, people are feeling more strapped for time to get things done," Rabiola said.

Rabiola has taught in the Lawrence district 17 years. The courses he's taught include humanities, writing for the college-bound and comparative mythology.

Leni Salkind, a school board member, said Rabiola had a reputation as a good teacher who served on many district committees. As board president next year, Salkind plans to work closely with Rabiola.

"I hear good things about Sam," Salkind said. "He seems knowledgeable. I look forward to working with him."

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