Speakers oppose cutting loose Air Force vet teacher

ONTONAGON – Ontonagon Area School District has had to cut teaching staff over the years to balance the budget, but the community isn’t happy about the latest loss of a veteran teacher.

Linda Johanson, a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force, taught a variety of classes over her 16-year tenure at the school – but that wasn’t enough to keep her job. She is circulating a petition to run for a seat on the School Board after being laid off last month.

“That’s what they think of our veterans,” said Sharon Cherava, whose son Nick died serving his country several years ago. “Anyone who connected with the students, like Linda and Dana Brookins, they’re gone. Come on. She’s a veteran. We should support our veterans.”

School Board President Dean Juntunen explained the district’s predicament.

“We’re struggling with declining enrollment,” Juntunen said, reminding Cherava the district lost about 100 students when the (Smurfit-Stone Container Co. paper) mill shut down a few years ago. “Your income is based on the number of students, and you have to pass a balanced budget. So we face teacher layoffs.”

Cherava read from her letter to the editor from last week’s Ontonagon Herald:

“The title ‘veteran’ means a lot to me for obvious reasons; and without them we wouldn’t have the right to an education in the first place.”

Several other people also wrote letters to the Herald supporting Johanson.

“Mrs. Johanson is a wonderful teacher and finds a way to get through to her students,” Jackie Wiseman wrote. “Not only are her teaching skills superior, but she has also picked up teaching art. I honestly believe you would be losing a great asset to the school. (I) hope you will reconsider.”