Classes to continue despite suspension of entire faculty
PEQUOT, SD --- Like most teens attending Pequot High School, 17 year-old freshman Alex Conklin last Monday made it to school just in time for his third period class. But instead of receiving the free, public education promised him by federal law, he found the school grounds littered with beer and liquor bottles - and the entire faculty dead drunk.
Home Economics instructor Karen Zalewksy explained that the so-called faculty "drunk-out" was a desperate measure to protest the school district's newly implemented "C" honor roll.
"We tried everything," she said, pressing her palms against her temples. "We went to (superintendent) Burns. We complained to the school board, even the union."
Instead of reassurances, teachers in the troubled South Dakota school district were given "excuses … even veiled threats," Zalewksy added, alleging superintendent of schools Pat Burn at a faculty meeting reminded the teaching staff that PHS's first priority is student success, not teacher contentment.
"How can you call a 1.75 GPA success?" Zalewsky said.
Most students attending Pequot need a 2.0 GPA to earn a place on the "C" honor roll, although exceptions can be made for athletes and students with known behavioral problems.
"And the union wasn't much help, either," Zalewsky added. "All they told us was that teachers are not allowed to strike in South Dakota and that the decision (regarding the "C" honor roll) didn't fall into their jurisdiction."
Burn has suspended the entire faculty, but said that classes will continue as scheduled.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol on campus," he said. "And if the teaching staff thinks, it doesn't apply to them, they have another thing coming. I don't care if we had a riot last year, and I don't care if one or two teachers died. That's no reason to start drinking at work."
Burn further stated that Pequot will be just as creative in procuring substitute teachers as it has been with the recent policy which caused the "drunk-out".
"There are all kinds of real smart people who already work here," he explained. "Cooks, custodians, the bus drivers. And some of our seniors will be glad to get a paycheck as well as credit for coming to Pequot."
Burn said that he is willing to hire some seniors as substitute teachers. Pequot school district has been unable to attract any subs since last year's student riot during which an undetermined number of staff and faculty were injured and killed.