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Changes debated for Franklin Co. career center

April 27, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Major changes are needed at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, and incoming Chambersburg Area School District superintendent Joseph Padasak says the half-day delivery system adopted this year by the district "is not the best thing for the children long-term."

Padasak, who will take over the administrative reins from retiring superintendent Edwin Sponseller on July 1, outlined some of the options Wednesday at a special meeting of the school board that was attended by representatives of some of the other five districts that send students to the career center.

Each year, about 300 Chambersburg Area Senior High School graduates stay in the community, not going on to college or post-secondary education, Padasak said. Of the approximately 900 students at the career center, 400 come from Chambersburg, but Padasak said hundreds more could benefit from taking technical courses.

About 80 percent of the Chambersburg students at the center are not proficient in reading, writing and math, Padasak said. The district went to half-day delivery in order to concentrate on improving those students' academic test scores.

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The other five districts, however, remain on a "semester about" system, sending students to the center one semester and keeping them at their home schools the other half of the year. Padasak said he has spoken with some career center students and "they are not happy" with attending the center half the day and feeling rushed through academic courses the other half.

Earlier this year, the school board voted to continue half-day delivery through the 2006-07 school year.

Principal Barry Purvis said it is difficult to gauge whether half-day is raising academic achievement after less than a year.

"We don't have the statistics or data to go on," he said.

"There's no question in my mind the technology center should be 11th and 12th and 13th and 14th," said Padasak. "We should go to the community college concept" with career center students finishing high school there and being able to continue with post-secondary training.

Other options include making the center a comprehensive high school with students taking all their academic and technology courses there, said Padasak, the superintendent of the Windber (Pa.) Area School District. Another is limiting attendance to 11th- and 12th-grade students with 10th-graders remaining at their high schools to take a mix of academic and career courses, he said.

There was also discussion of Chambersburg taking over the center, while allowing students from other districts to attend.

"I'm concerned we're going to act or react for the sake of acting," said Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross. "In the end, I'm not sure what we're going to end up with."

With a joint operating committee made up of nine members from six districts, board member Fred Rice said it is hard to reach agreement on any issues at the center. The issues discussed Wednesday, though, will likely be aired again tonight when the joint operating committee meets.

One area where there appears to be some agreement is on the rotation of the chief school administrator. That position, now held by Waynesboro Superintendent Barry Dallara, is rotated every year, but Padasak said that should be extended to several years for better consistency.

Greencastle-Antrim Director of Elementary Education C. Gregory Hoover and Shippensburg High School Principal Fred Shilling both said that was an idea they would support.

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