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French teacher leaves, students could lose scholarship opportunities

Up to 17 Dickinson High School students could lose up to $1,500 a year in scholarship money if DHS doesn't find a new French teacher soon.

A contract dispute could leave these students in a lurch.

Freshman Luke Ensign said some of his classmates are concerned.

"We have two Spanish teachers," he said. "I can't imagine not even having one French teacher."

Former teacher Heather Hertz resigned from her position after signing a contract with DHS to teach French this school year.

"In order to qualify for the North Dakota Academic Scholarship or the North Dakota Career and Technical Education Scholarship, students must take two consecutive years of the same foreign language and attend a North Dakota college or university," Dickinson Public Schools Board President Kris Fehr said.

Hertz is now the superintendent of Glen Ullin High School.

"I understood they needed two consecutive years, but I also hoped the school would be able to find a French teacher," she said. "I knew it would be difficult, but not impossible."

In her last letter to Dickinson Public Schools, Hertz offered to teach a French II class online asynchronously, meaning she wouldn't have to be online the same time as the students.

"Dickinson Public Schools and I had some disagreements on the amount of face time the students would be getting," Hertz said. "I declined their offer and thought I was very clear in being open to coming up with a solution that would work for both parties, those 13 students could have had a French teacher if DHS would have been more flexible."

In August, the district requested an inquiry from the Education Standards and Practice Board to determine whether or not there had been a breech of contract, said Douglas Sullivan, DPS superintendent.

"The Education Standards and Practice Board held a hearing in September and determined there was a breech of contract," he said.

"The Education Standards and Practice Board fined me $1,000 and suspended my teaching license for 30 days," Hertz said.

As superintendent, Hertz will not be paid during the 30 days that her license is suspended. Also as a result Glen Ullin High School had to hire a part time superintendent during those 30 days.

"Dickinson High School has been looking for a new French teacher all school year," DHS Principal Ron Dockter said.

DPS advertised for the French position from the beginning of May until May 21 and then didn't advertise it again until July 20, Hertz said.

"The position has been advertised, and we have had a few inquiries, but after hearing the position was only part time and not full time, the inquires politely declined," Dockter said.

One other option DHS is looking into is offering a French class through the North Dakota Center for Distance Learning.

"We are very hopeful about things working out with the North Dakota Center for Distance Learning option," Dockter said.

If neither of those options work out DHS may have an ace up its sleeve.

Dockter said DHS may have a third option, but he wished not to discuss it at this time.

The last ditch option is for students to switch and take two years of Spanish -- this option would not help seniors who had previously been taking French, but it would be an option for underclassmen.

"We need to have something in place for these students before the second semester," Dockter said. "We are doing everything in our power to make that happen."