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Portage students protest firing of high school auditorium director

Portage High School students protest following Wednesday night's Portage Township Schools board meeting over the firing of auditorium director Kevin Giese. School officials said they are going in a different direction and hiring a certified teacher for the position. Giese served as auditorium director for nine years.

PORTAGE — More than 50 present and former Portage High School students stood holding signs protesting the apparent firing of the school's auditorium director following the School Board meeting Wednesday night.

The signs said "You take G's job, we take yours" to "Do not limit our self expression."

They were upset that Kevin Giese, who had served in that position for nine years, had received a letter stating the district had decided to go in another direction for his position. The letter, which Giese confirmed he received, didn't state he was terminated.

It was, he said Wednesday, vague and despite attempts to reach administrators to clarify the situation, he remained uncertain of his future.

Giese declined further comment, saying he had retained legal counsel.

In response to the situation, students and former students and some parents attended Wednesday night's meeting, hoping to speak on the situation.

However, after filling out required public comment forms, they were told by School Board attorney Ken Elwood that the board would not take comments on the issue because it was a personnel matter.

Someone shouted "censorship" when Elwood made his comments and was quickly admonished by Board President Andy Maletta.

Andrea Vance, a 2018 graduate, managed to speak after filling out a second form.

"Our school has a lot of teachers who would sacrifice their lives for us," she said, talking in general about teachers who had changed students' lives.

"You are taking away a person who makes a difference in our lives," Vance said. "You take his job, we are taking yours."

Vance, who received a standing ovation for her comments, said this is the latest in a string of teachers and administrators who have left the district.

Giese is well liked by students. Last year students took up a collection and purchased for Giese, who is color blind, a pair of Enchroma glasses so that he could see color.

Superintendent Amanda Alaniz confirmed the letter to Giese.

"Mr. Giese has done a phenomenal job," she said, adding that it has been decided to hire a certified teacher to fill the position for the next school year.

She said Giese is not a certified teacher. Alaniz said the position has previously been held by certified teachers such as Joe Stevens and William Bodnar who not only acted as auditorium director, but also taught.

Alaniz said Giese is welcomed to apply for another position within the district.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for more than 38 years, including 23 years with The Times. She covers municipal and school government in Valparaiso and Portage.