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'Serious morale issues:' Teachers claim Racine County School District fosters toxic work environment

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RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A large group of teachers and staff in a Racine County school district is accusing the administration of fostering a threatening work environment.

More than two dozen staff members at Yorkville Elementary School signed a letter to the school board claiming “serious morale issues.”

The letter says many of them “get knots in their stomach just walking into school in the morning.”

They say there have been “verbally threatening events,” including being called “whiny cry baby teachers” on multiple occasions.

Jeff Peterson, the first-year superintendent, paints a different picture. He says the school is a happy place.

"I walked through the building yesterday and today and see anything far from toxic,” he said. “I see children learning. I see staff engaged with each other."

Sarah Spang is a parent with two children in the school, and one who already graduated.

She’s concerned about unhappy teachers possibly leaving.

“What will [my younger daughter’s] experience at Yorkville be like if those exceptional teachers aren’t maintained?” Spang said.

Contributing to the disintegration of trust in the district was an asbestos scare from renovations over the summer.

Peterson says there’s no longer anything to worry about.

"That was cleared essentially, with some air quality testing and some procedural reflections that we had as a school district,” he said.

Spang still wonders who was responsible for the mistake in the first place.

"If some of these questions aren't answered adequately, then it has crossed our mind to look into school choice into a neighboring district," she said.

In addition to Peterson, there are several new administrative staff members.

He says he believes the changes have caused anxiety, but he’s confident that, in time, everyone will get along.

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