Students, parents lament loss of occupational ed classes
Teachers, parents and students spoke up at the Douglas County School Board meeting Tuesday about their dismay at losing the five occupational education classes taught by James Archdekin.
Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Roy Casey said the district is sympathetic to those students who are upset at the loss of their teacher, but wants to assure the community that the students who really wanted to learn have been placed in classes and counseling is being offered to students.
“He had a great relationship with his students and that’s what’s bothering them. (The schools-to-careers office) has been working every period with kids to talk about their relationship with their teacher. Mr. Archdekin helped us with this conflict and acted in a caring and professional manner with his students,” Casey said.
James Archdekin taught two construction tech classes for the school district and three auto classes – two auto tech and an auto body class – through a Western Nevada Community College grant.
When that grant ran out this year, communication problems prevented the district from taking steps to avoid class scheduling conflicts.
When Archdekin found out the three WNCC classes would not be offered, he decided not to continue teaching with only two classes on his schedule, Casey said.
Bus Scharmann, dean of extended programs for WNCC, said the federal guidelines of the tech prep grant were changed this year, and would no longer cover the Douglas High School programs. He, however, said the college wants to continue to work with DCSD.
“I will be meeting with the district to see if there is anything at all that can be salvaged out of this program. It may be difficult. We have had such great relationships with the district, we want to look at whatever we can do to help the situation. Cooperation is the key,” Scharmann said.
Archdekin had an average of 25 students in each of five classes, Casey said. The students in the construction tech classes are being taught by a substitute. Casey said they are seeking a full-time teacher from the community.
The seniors in the auto tech classes were placed in Wayne Moore’s auto tech classes. The auto body class was eliminated after the students did not sign up for a replacement class they would have to pay for.
Casey said the school decided to offer a class in combination with WNCC at a cost of $144.50. However, WNCC said 12 students per class were needed to afford a teacher. Casey said one student returned an application.
Auto body students who wanted to continue their education were placed in an internship at community auto body shops, Casey said.
“Those seniors who were just there for an elective credit were put in other elective classes. Those who wanted to learn were fit into Wayne Moore’s classes. Some of the sophomores and juniors took other electives or other required courses,” Casey said.
He said he and the DHS staff will look at the option of bringing back the auto body class next semester.
“We are working on getting approved as dual credit class for auto body next semester. That would mean WNCC would pay for an instructor, and pay rent and then we would provide scholarships for students who couldn’t pay for it. We are working to see what we can do to continue these classes. There are 50 other occupational education classes at DHS,” Casey said. “Sometimes, the classes are filled with students who just want to fill a schedule and are not interested in the class. It is important those students (interested in learning) are given the priority.”
Casey said the district and WNCC currently share the responsibility for about a dozen classes and the district will continue to work with WNCC to provide new classes.
n Board members. The tide is moving against occupational education classes, said school board member Michele Lewis.
She said the national trend of increasing the number of academic requirements is pushing occupational education classes, and students, out of schools.
“The state board of education changed the graduation requirements and added an additional math requirement from two to three classes. In Douglas County, we revamped our math curriculum five years ago and made the math curriculum more rigorous. We had a belief that what was in the program mattered and not the hours of seat time. So they are going to have to hire another math teacher, and they won’t be able to hire an occupational ed teacher,” Lewis said. “They’re killing occupational ed programs. If it continues, I foresee we’ll have the traditional high school for kids that are college-bound and another high school for occupational ed kids. It’s really sad.”
Lewis said she is in favor of the district’s competency-based system, because as an occupational education teacher in the past, she was frustrated when students couldn’t do the math required of them.
She said the school district shouldn’t move away from occupational ed classes, however, because such a high percentage of students don’t go on to four-year colleges.
“Seventy-five percent of students aren’t going to go to college, whether we like it or not. We need to do a much better job of implementing occupational ed programs. I’d like to see a high school that focuses on occupational education. Students need an incentive to carry on and get at least a two-year degree. I’ve got 2-1/2 years left on this board and if I can have any influence on increasing the offerings, I will,” Lewis said.
Trustee George Echan said the board is urging the community to get involved to help the schools fill out the school-to-careers programs, because although the district is committed to the occupational education program, the funding isn’t available.
“The sense of the board was to try to find a way to get contributions from the community and find a long term solution. That was the unanimous feeling of the board. The board understood the position by the students and concerned parents, but the district got caught between a rock and a hard place. Not one board member is not interested in immediately resolving this problem,” Echan said.