Layoffs leave Austin residents concerned

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 1999

David Hagen came to Wednesday’s Austin Public School Board meeting because he’s worried about the DECA program – and its advisor – at Austin High School.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

David Hagen came to Wednesday’s Austin Public School Board meeting because he’s worried about the DECA program – and its advisor – at Austin High School.

Email newsletter signup

Not that the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program is unhealthy at AHS. More than 20 students qualified for the State DECA competition and three are going to the National DECA competition in Orlando on April 24. Teacher Ginny Riege has 25 years experience as a marketing teacher and the DECA advisor at AHS.

DECA is not the problem – Riege’s future is. One of five tenured teachers placed on &uot;unrequested leave of absence&uot; effective June 10 at Wednesday’s board meeting, her future at AHS hangs on the Minnesota Legislature. If the state comes through with more funding than the district has conservatively estimated, Riege and many of her peers will probably be asked to stay. If the funding is less, however, AHS probably won’t offer marketing classes or DECA next school year. Most DECA members are or have been students in one of Riege’s marketing classes. Riege is also the only person in the business department licensed to teach marketing and the department’s most senior teacher.

While it was the school board who cast the final vote on the teacher and administrative reductions, the principals at each school had to make the initial decision once the district told them how many positions would have to be cut.

Julie Espe, AHS principal, said the decision was based largely on numbers. Students at the high school registered for classes in January, so the school had the numbers for next year’s classes already available. Espe said classes with 30 kids per period made the cut, but not enough students signed up for marketing. A second factor in putting Riege on the list was her licensure, Espe said. Riege isn’t licensed to teach a range of business classes. She is, however, licensed to teach Vocational Marketing and currently teaches Marketing I, II – with a work-experience component – an advanced course called Modeling and Simulation and has a period allocated for DECA.

&uot;I’m a little discouraged with the school board,&uot; Hagen said after the meeting. Hagen is the regional sales manager for KTTC-TV and a former DECA member. &uot;Her (Riege’s) class is one of the few that gives hands-on experience in high school. Calling the decision a numbers thing – that’s one way of looking at it. Maybe a few less so-called fringes in the athletic program would be more appropriate.&uot;

Retiring superintendent Dr. J. Douglas Myers said it was &uot;premature&uot; to think that marketing would be cut from the AHS curriculum. He said it’s likely that many of the teachers or programs will be restored.

This isn’t the first time the marketing teacher has been told she might not have a job the next year. However, Riege said the school had determined last year that she is also qualified to teach Introduction to Business, which she had thought would keep her off the list of teachers to be cut for the next school year.

&uot;Ginny is an excellent teacher,&uot; Espe said. &uot;But she has limited licensure, and that makes her vulnerable for cuts.&uot; Espe did say Riege was second on her list, following a math teacher, of teachers to be rehired should the district have the funding once the Legislature votes on K-12 funding. Espe also noted that the number of people she had to cut this year was up from last year; she estimated it at five last year and this year nine were cut: five probationary teachers and four tenured teachers.

Personnel director Robbin Knudtson reiterated what Myers said, describing the cuts as precautionary.

&uot;Usually quite a few of the teachers don’t actually end up being cut once the funding comes through,&uot; Knudtson said. &uot;It is an awful time for teachers. … not knowing. It’s not anything we want to do to people.&uot;

In the meantime, Riege is hopeful, but not resting on her laurels. She intends to ask that her &uot;unrequested leave&uot; be rescinded and to make sure all the school board members understand that she can teach more than marketing.

Senior Nick Luger is one of Riege’s three DECA members headed to Nationals in April.

&uot;DECA taught me a lot of the basic skills that I’m going to need in the business world: from sales to marketing plans to job interviewing,&uot; Luger said.

Luger said most of his classmates share his feelings that there would be no other way at the high school to acquire some of those skills and knowledge that today’s business world desires.

&uot;You find out what it’s like, then you know if it’s something you want to do,&uot; he said. &uot;Kids won’t be able to do that without Mrs. Riege there – besides, she makes it really interesting because she’s so interested in the subject.&uot;