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Looking into process of hiring teachers: 'You send your kids there to school and you hope you can trust who they're with'

In the past two months, we've learned two teachers in our area are facing drug charges.

Posted: Nov. 19, 2018 9:09 PM

KIMT NEWS 3 – It’s a big deal when we see a teacher’s name in headlines. Educators of our youth are often scrutinized, and rightfully so.

KIMT spoke with the Albert Lea School District Monday, and learned it’s not so much the hiring process that’s the hard part but what comes after.

Over the weekend, three women were arrested on drug charges in Northwood. Sara Fenske is the family and consumer science teacher in the Northwood-Kensett Community School District.

Superintendent Michael Crozier tells KIMT he’s aware of the charges Fenske is facing, and she is on administrative leave as the district reviews the case.

Fenske is the second teacher in our area to be arrested on drug charges in the last few months.

In October, the Albert Lea School Board held a special meeting and voted unanimously to fire early childhood special education teacher Erin Bennett. The district said Bennett was terminated following multiple incidents involving drugs.

“You send your kids there to school and you hope you can trust who they're with,” Michelle Hrubetz, of Albert Lea, said.

With three kids in the Albert Lea School District, Hrubetz often thinks about who’s teaching her kids. Coincidentally, she moved to Albert Lea from Northwood.

“You're not with them so you have to hope that you know they're in good hands,” Hrubetz said, “And how can you teach about not taking drugs if the people teaching them are dealing with drugs ya know?”

The Albert Lea District Office tells KIMT they’re heavily involved in the hiring process of new teachers, and said the application process is extensive.

To be a teacher in the Albert Lea, you need to do two things: get a teaching license through the Minnesota Department of Education, and pass a background check through the district.

Jim Quiram is the executive director of administrative services. He said the district is often made aware of situations not during the hiring process, but after.

“One of the ways quite honestly that we are often notified is by parents,” Quiram said. “Parents are either aware of it, have heard about it, saw it on social media, read it in the paper, that type of thing and they'll bring it forward.”

Because of this, he adds the process is a lot more transparent that past years.

“There's police logs in the paper, there's social media,” Quiram said, “So some of these things that in the past may not have popped up after hire, now you hear about when they become your employee if something comes up.”

Quiram noted the district does not do a background check after a teacher is already hired.

Parents, like Hrubetz, might think things like that need to change.

“More extensive background checks, I don't know, looking into references? Whatever they're not doing, do it a little bit more,” Hrubetz said.

Something that makes a difference in this story is the teacher shortage. The candidate pool can seem thin in small school districts. Quiram said something that’s harder than hiring good teachers, is getting them to stay.

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