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Drama teacher’s resignation accepted

By Matthew Stolle

mstolle@postbulletin.com

EYOTA — The Dover-Eyota School Board accepted the resignation of English teacher and drama instructor Sean Little, dashing the hopes of the more than two dozen students who had gathered at Monday’s school board meeting in the hope of saving his job.

The vote was the culmination of weeklong drama in which students of Dover-Eyota High School organized a petition to protest administrators’ decision to not renew Little’s contract and to deny him tenure. Little opted to send a resignation letter, effective at the end of the school year, instead of having the board vote not renew his contract.

"You have a gem," said Lori Ehlenfeldt, a Dover-Eyota parent. "I don’t know what it was that he did that is so bad that you need to let him go, that you can’t work with him."

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Yet, that argument and the more than 200 signatures gathered from students, parents and alumni to protest his dismissal failed to sway the board. It voted 6-1 to accept Little’s resignation, effectively ending his position at Dover-Eyota High School at the end of the school year.

Judy Brandt was the lone school board member to vote against accepting Little’s resignation. School board Chairman Ron Pagel and board members Gene Loftus, Don Andring, Dan Johnson, Ed Kaehler and Gary Pedersen voted to accept it.

In a brief e-mail, Little, a third-year teacher, said he was preparing for life beyond Dover-Eyota High School

"I don’t really have much to add. I’m just looking to the future. I have a new novel to promote. After this school year is over, that’s my focus," Little said.

Little, 32, has just published a new book called, "The Centurion: The Balance of the Soul War," which is available at Amazon.com.

More than a week ago, administrators informed Little that his contract was not being renewed. Sometime between that announcement and a school board retreat late last week, Little sent the board his letter of resignation.

"He loved this place. He loved working here, but he pretty much accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to work here again," said Dover-Eyota senior Jessica Ehlenfeldt.

Parents and students had argued that Little be allowed to remain a teacher at Dover-Eyota High School. They credited him with resurrecting a once-moribund drama club and making it into an award-winning one. And they described him as a talented teacher with a gift for motivating students who found school boring.

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Administrators and school board members said data privacy laws tied their hands, preventing them from divulging the reasons for the decision.

Yet administrators made clear that Little and his teaching style also had provoked an unspecified number of complaints from others. Little himself described his teaching style as "unorthodox." He used no notes or materials in preparing himself for class.

Dover-Eyota Superintendent Bruce Klaehn said he was not insensitive to the concerns of students who wanted to save Little’s job, but "on the other hand, what about the other people who feel much differently and have been very unhappy with their children having to have been in his classes and the way he teaches."

Moments before voting to accept his resignation, Loftus urged students not to give up and to carry on the tradition that Little had started.

"You guys really like him. It’s obvious. And I think he cares about you. And I don’t think he wants you guys to fold up," Loftus said. "Carry on with what he’s given you."

To learn more about Sean Little, go to postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Sean Little promotes his book:

http://www.seanpatricklittle.com/

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Sean Little’s Dover-Eyota Web site:

http://disco.desch.org/page.cfm/seanlittle

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