Sawyer County Sheriff Doug Mrotek told the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors at their monthly meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15, that because of an acute shortage of female jailers that will occur when two go on maternity leave that all females inmates in two weeks will have to be housed out of the county.
Sheriff Mrotek spoke to the board about not just the shortage of personnel in the jail but also in dispatch and shortage of part time works who often fill full-time positions when they become open.
He said in the past there have always been part time workers who have been able to step in and replace a full time worker when they left, but now his office had very few part-timers.
He said in dispatch, with seven dispatchers, the division is down two, and there are no part timers who are fully trained to replace a full time worker. However, he said there has been some interest and "a few applications" had been received and those persons where "job shadowing" dispatchers.
But it was in the jail where the shortage is most acute, with a shortage of 4 jailers.
"Out of the four vacancies, we're down to four, full time females," he said. "That's a minimum requirement to house our female inmates. In four weeks, two of the four females we have are going to be on maternity leave. We have made arrangements to ship all of our female inmates out to surrounding counties. By October 14, we will have all of our females out of county."
Mrotek said after October 14, when a woman is arrested she will be booked in and then immediately taken out of county to a jail, probably in Barron County.
"We are transporting our females primarily to Barron County, so we're probably looking at two or three hours of downtime in a patrol shift (for a patrol deputy), just with the arrest and transport for that female inmate," he said.
Sheriff Mrotek said he had received communication from Sawyer County Circuit Judge John Yackel over concerns of transporting the women out of county and meeting court dates.
Mrotek noted his biggest staffing concern is in the jail.
"Why we're losing jailers right now is they're tired of being forced in it," he said.
Sheriff Mrotek was asked by the Sawyer County Record of what he meant by "... tired of being forced in it."
One short-term solution, Mrotek said, is that patrol officers would be trained to be jailers and could work, via overtime, in the jail to help relieve the jail staff.
"I know we're going to get through this, but we've kind of exhausted every thought we can and open it up to the board and others," he said. "If we are missing something or somebody else has a suggestion, we are open. We don't know what else to do." Supervisor Stacey Hessel asked why people were not applying and asked if it was pay related.
Mrotek said the staff had reached out to other their friends to encourage people to apply, and he noted the starting pay, at $20.86, did not compete with the wages being offered at Louisiana Pacific (LP) or Arclin, and he also thought it was part of the general labor shortage occurring across the country in various industries.
Chairman Tweed Shuman asked what would be the budget impact of moving all the female inmates out of county.
Mrotek said it cost the county $43 a day to house an inmate out of county, but he also noted that because of a staff shortage in the jail that the salary expense is down, and that by moving all the females out of the jail, that all the males that are currently being housed out of county would be brought back in saving the county that expense.
Sawyer County Administrator Andy Alberado said the county had already spent twice the projected budget for out-of-county jailing, and he also noted part of the expense for the county is transporting the inmates.
"Nineteen hundred kids came smiling into the classrooms last week," said Craig Olson, District Administrator of the Hayward Community School District, as he described the mood and the attitude of not just the students, but the teachers and staff as well.
Across the nation, school districts have been heavily impacted by the various hardships, trials and challenges brought on during and after the pandemic, with some school districts going to four-day work weeks. In Maryland schools alone, 5,500 teachers quit in 2022.
A recent national survey of principals and school district leaders found that 72 percent did not have enough applications for open teaching positions, according to the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, Dan Domenech.
A Texas study found that in 2010, 13 percent of college students were interested in a teaching career. In 2020 that percentage was just 7 percent.
The decline in people getting teacher degrees has been steadily declining for the past decade, but the pandemic made it worse, according to a March 22, 2022 article in Education Week.
"Between the 2008-09 and the 2018-19 academic years, the number of people completing a teacher-education program declined by almost a third. Traditional teacher-preparation programs saw the largest decline—35 percent. The pandemic has made the situation worse.
There's no magic bullet that's going to turn this situation around," said Jacqueline King, co-author of the report. Craig Olson bolstered that argument, citing high levels of stress, a long-term decline in people going into the profession of teaching, and teacher burnout.
Yet, here in Hayward, Olson said they have developed their own ways of recruitment and retention.
A program that Olson developed 15 years ago, called "Grow Your Own," has been renamed and retooled into "Canes for Life," a recruitment program that encourages students to return to the Hayward Community School District as employees—be they teachers, administrative assistants, cooks, custodians, bus drivers or substitute teachers, Olson said. Today, 93 out of 260 total staff are "Canes for Life," having returned to Hayward to work in the school district, according to Olson.
Olson said when they recruit for teachers, they are careful to make sure that people know what this area has to offer and what it's about.
"We can hire, develop and retain teachers—but only if they like Hayward, Wisconsin," said Olson, adding, "We look at that very carefully."
Similarly, people moving here for other jobs are not moving here because of the schools, but they still want to know the culture and caliber of the school district, he explained, adding that the brand marketing is important.
COVID put a hit on people, said Olson. He said they had to scurry around trying to make sure positions were filled. "We looked every-where—it was free-agency recruitment. We never had to shut down due to COVID but we had staff shortages," he said. We were worried about teachers and bus drivers getting sick and having to take care of sick relatives and family at home as well, Olson said.
"The bus drivers were our biggest and scariest concern because if the kids can't get to school there's nothing to be taught. Today there are 25 bus drivers, a decrease from 32 before, Olson said.
Burnout for teachers was also an issue, with teachers having four days a week of in-person teaching and one day a week of mandatory virtual learning during COVID.
"That caused the biggest drain on them and loss of enthusiasm," Olson said. He said teachers can leave and go somewhere else and earn more, and be in a bigger city.
"We've benefited from that and we've lost from that," he said.
From the start of the pandemic, March 3, 2020, to the present, eight teachers have retired and 29 teachers have resigned. Olson said an average number of teacher resignations would be more like 15 to 22. He said there was a "variety of reasons" for teachers leaving, mostly relocation.
Support staff stayed level over that same period of time, with six retiring and six resigning.
Substitute teachers are a problem in the district. They had 46 in 2020 and today have 34.
Olson said, "We need them badly. During COVID our regular teachers had to sub in other classrooms during hours they would normally have to do their own work. There's not one day when you have all positions filled."
The Hayward Community School District has a new motto, "Be the 1." It came about after Olson met with the student council representatives who told him it's the staff that makes them either want to come to school or stay in bed. So Olson said he told the teachers to "Be the 1," the one that makes the kids want to come to school.
As for Olson himself, the Record asked him what toll this has taken on him.
"This is my chosen profession. I had to be a strong leader. Not one second did I think of walking away. You toughen up and move on. It's a brave new world for everyone."
Hayward's 37th annual Fall Festival is Saturday, Sept. 24 in downtown Hayward. Hosted by the Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce and this year sponsored by the Northern Lakes Cooperative, this festival is one of Hayward's finest events. Thousands of people from all over help celebrate this annual tradition.
There will be many events and activities taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including the popular and diverse handmade Arts & Crafts vendors. The sidewalk sales by local businesses can't be beat—the best of the season on display and available at great prices.
There will be many activities and games throughout the day, especially for kids. The Main Stage will be hosting kids' games throughout the day and kids can decorate their own mini pumpkins near the stage, courtesy of Marketplace Foods.
New this year will be a 3-on-3 basketball tournament hosted by the Hayward Girls Basketball Association. This tournament will take place all day on West Second Street and pre-registration is required.
The long-standing Scarecrow Contest is back this year and festival-goers can vote for their favorite scarecrow throughout the day.
The festival's presenting sponsor, the Northern Lakes Cooperative, will have also have a game zone positioned at the intersection by the Main Stage where kids and adults can play games for $1,000 in prizes.
Northern Lakes Cooperative is celebrating their 90th Birthday so be sure to stop by their tent and say, "Happy Birthday." Also, check out their set-up at the start of Main Street for information on all the happenings at the Co-op.
Live music presented by Angler's Bar and Grill will be performed by Jennifer Reisch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sage Leary from 2 to 5 p.m. on the Deerfoot Lodge & Resort Main Stage. Both artists have played in the Hayward area over the last few years and are sure to add some great tunes and atmosphere to the festivities.
For more information and a full schedule of events visit haywardareachamber.com/fall-festival or call 715-634-8662.
Held annually on the last weekend of September, the Cable Area Fall Fest is Friday, Sept. 23, 3-10 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
With streets and roads lined with cornstalks, hay bales and pumpkins, this fall fest will put you right in the mood to welcome Fall.
Live music; a car, motorcycle and truck show; arts and crafts vendors; and, of course, the best of the food vendors—all this will fill the streets and stir your fun factor!
New this year is the "Fall Into Cash Raffle." Buy a $20 raffle ticket at the Chamber office or a local member business for a chance to win cash. The first drawing is for $2,500; second drawing is for $1,500; and the third drawing is for $1,000. You need not be present to win. The drawing will be on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Fall Fest, with proceeds benefitting community projects and scholarships.
The fun kicks off with a Fall Harvest Dessert Contest at 3 p.m. You can sign up to be an official judge by contacting the Chamber for more information.
At 4 p.m. the Beer & Wine Garden has live music, and at 5 p.m. there a Northwoods Fish Fry.
The day starts early at 7:30 a.m. with a Pumpkin Pecan Pancake Breakfast and the Arts & Crafts show at 9 a.m. Enjoy live music all day on the Chamber deck.
The bounce houses and carnival games for kids run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also, at 10 a.m. the Badger Football Fall Fest Huddle is at the Beer & Wine Garden at the Lion's tent.
At 5 p.m. the popular Wine and Cheese Tasting begins.
Don't forget to pick up seasonal harvest at the UCC Church Farmer's Market.
Speaking of food, the Food Court features many different cuisines, and there's a tent featuring some of the local restaurant's bestselling burgers, turkey legs, pies and more.
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