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Douglas High students protest class cuts

by Sheila Gardner, Record-Courier editor

Douglas High School students are up in arms because funding was pulled for three occupational education classes and teacher James Archdekin will be leaving.

Senior Lori Dennis intends to present petitions with more than 600 signatures collected at the high school in a few hours Friday protesting the cancellation of Archdekin’s classes to the Douglas County School Board on Tuesday.

“I am going to show them every signature I have to help Mr. Archdekin get his job back,” she said.

Archdekin teaches auto shop, body shop and woodworking classes, paid for by Western Nevada Community College, and two classes for the school district.

According to assistant Douglas County Superintendent Roy Casey, Archdekin was partially paid through a grant from Western Nevada Community College. Casey said Friday that the school district was only notified within the last few days that the money was not available, two weeks into the school year when the classes were already filled.

Casey said he was told by WNCC that the only way to resolve the problem was to offer the classes for high school and college credit, which would require students to pay $139.50 for tuition, plus a $15 fee.

Casey said the school district was working to create fee waivers for students who couldn’t afford tuition.

“We spoke with students and there wasn’t the interest,” he said. “The kids just didn’t bring back the applications. At this point, there is no funding, and our alternative as far as the programs being fee-based just kind of petered out. We lost the funding from WNCC and the school district just doesn’t have the funding.”

To make up for the loss of the tech programs, Casey said the district would be offering internships with area businesses for high school credit. He said one of Archdekin’s classes with low enrollment was combined with another class.

“We’ve done some schedule changes to accommodate the needs of those kids,” Casey said.

Archdekin said Friday he had received a couple job offers, but had not accepted a new position. He said he was grateful for the support and maturity of his students.

“I told them the worst thing that they could do is be mad, the best thing was to be mature,” he said.

Students collected more than 600 signatures at the high school and planned to spend the weekend gathering more at the post offices and grocery stores. The students learned of the changes Friday.

“That’s impressive,” said Archdekin. “That tells me I have accomplished something by making them responsible. The students have grown a lot.”

Archdekin started out in the auto and construction industries. After he injured his back, he became a teacher at the urging of fellow occupational education teacher Wayne Moore.

Originally, he was hired as Moore’s assistant, with his classes eventually funded by WNCC.

According to Archdekin, WNCC had warned Douglas that eventually he would have to be paid by the school district because of the conditions of the grant which provided his salary.

“Either somebody didn’t remember or they didn’t tell them. I don’t know. I am just worried about my students,” he said.

“I do wish WNCC had notified us in the spring that they weren’t going to employ him,” Casey said.

“It’s unfair to the students,” said senior Shara Thiesen, 17. “The students love him. Some boys said the only reason they go to school is because of Mr. Archdekin. Now, these kids are getting switched to other electives like music and creative foods. These boys just want to work on cars, and now they have to cook pancakes.”

Dennis agreed.

“We have a lot of AP (advanced placement) classes, and they’re good, but only 30 percent of our kids go straight to a four-year college. We need these occupational education classes.”

Casey said the district will continue to offer occupational education.

“We will continue to build programs in occupational education,” he said. “We have a couple scheduled to come on line. We would like to reinstitute the CNA (certified nursing program) at the second semester.”