Tyra Perine

Putnam Heights special education teacher Tyra Perine of Eau Claire sits in a classroom Friday at the school. Perine is the recipient of a statewide teachers union's annual humanitarian award for her work toward equity and diversity at Putnam Heights. View more photos at LeaderTelegram.com.

EAU CLAIRE — The Eau Claire school board tonight will honor a Putnam Heights Elementary School teacher who received a statewide award this spring for her work on equity and social justice in the school district.

A committee of Wisconsin teachers chose Eau Claire special education teacher Tyra Perine to receive the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s 2021 Lewandowski Award for Humanitarian Activities, the teacher’s union said in a press release.

“I was very surprised,” Perine told the Leader-Telegram of receiving the award. “I’m just super excited to be a part of all this great work.”

The Lewandowski Award goes to teachers who lead efforts for social equity and justice or work on opportunities for special education students, according to WEAC.

Perine has taught in the Eau Claire school district for 17 years, and at Putnam Heights for eight.

She helped grow a National Education Association program dubbed Leaders for Just Schools, recruiting over 20 teachers to work on equity within the district, according to WEAC.

The program “taught me how to advocate and build networks of support to help me start the change that’s needed,” Perine said. “It helps us build student-centered, family-centered programming to get the school to be more inclusive and equitable for all our students.”

Perine, Putnam Heights principal Diana Lesneski and other teachers interested in the program met on Saturdays, held book studies and set goals they wanted to reach “to create more of a diverse staff and reflect the students coming in the door,” Perine said.

Perine has also been instrumental in the school’s work in recruiting new educators, with an eye for diversity and inclusion, Lesneski said.

“Tyra is an excellent leader,” Lesneski said. “I appreciate her honesty and her ability to help us really dig into the work and reflect on our practices … we’re really focused on sharing our message and our vision so potential teachers can look at Putnam and see the work we’re doing.”

“Mrs. Perine would never want to take credit for the amazing things being done in her district because this work simply cannot be done alone,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, also an Eau Claire teacher, in a statement. “But it’s clear that Tyra is a powerful force in moving this work forward. She not only continues to advance her knowledge around equity and social justice but always brings other people along with her, showing her leadership in developing more allies in our work.”

Board to vote on open enrollments

At its meeting at 7 this evening, the Eau Claire school board tonight is also slated to vote on students’ open enrollment applications for the upcoming school year.

Final open enrollment numbers haven’t yet been formalized, according to district documents.

In the 2020-21 school year, 774 students open-enrolled out of the district, and 298 open-enrolled into the district, according to meeting documents.

District officials will also be able to place open-enrolled students at both North and Memorial high schools this year. The school board in January voted to allow the district to place open-enrollees at either high school for the first time since 2017, when open-enrolled high school students were placed only at North to balance uneven enrollment numbers.

Also on tonight’s agenda:

The board will meet in closed session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the superintendent’s salary. It will meet in open session at 7 p.m.

The board will hear and discuss early learning student data from the past four years.

The board will also hear about proposed modifications to the 2021-22 employee handbook, but is not slated to vote on the recommendations this evening.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.