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Career center board hears another center's success story

June 23, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Significant decisions need to be made as the Franklin County (Pa.) Career and Technology Center meets a changing work force in which "sooner or later, everybody will have to go to post-secondary" schools, the executive director of another of the state's 81 career centers said Thursday night.

Clyde K. Hornberger reviewed with the Franklin County career center's Joint Operating Committee several of the decisions it needs to make as the county's largest school district transitions into a comprehensive, all-day program there.

The Chambersburg Area School District in 2006-07 will offer sophomores and juniors academic classes at the career center. Members of the class of 2007 who take career center classes will be allowed to attend the high school for one semester during their senior year, but participating juniors and sophomores will go to the career center all day next year, the school board decided last week.

The move is the third change in Chambersburg's attendance at the career center in three years. In 2005-06, Chambersburg students attended the high school half of each day and received vocational training at the career center in the other half.

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Hornberger, from the Lehigh (Pa.) Career & Technical Institute, shared with the Joint Operating Committee the process that has allowed his center to grow and serve 3,400 students from nine school districts around Allentown, Pa.

A "critical step" has been relying on the expertise of local workers and business leaders when developing programs and even facilities, Hornberger said.

When expanding and renovating the Lehigh career center between 2001 and 2006, Hornberger's work force "experts" exchanged e-mails with the architect to update plans.

As an example, Hornberger mentioned that the experts told him to scrap plans for a photography darkroom, since the industry increasingly is digitally oriented.

This fall, his school will launch an "academic center," allowing participating students to take vocational classes in the morning, eat lunch and move upstairs for academic classes in the afternoon. The center will not provide "credits" for the high school, but it will conduct all classes under state guidelines, Hornberger said.

"The students do not graduate from our school. They graduate from their home school. We want our students to stay engaged with their home school," Hornberger said.

The career center offers math, science and language arts; a limited amount of social studies and health/physical education; and no extracurricular activities, Hornberger said.

"The concept is where our thinking is," said Joseph Padasak, who will take over as superintendent of Chambersburg schools for the 2006-07 school year.

Lately, 100 to 160 students have attended the Lehigh career center looking for college preparation, not skills, Hornberger said. They focus on programs geared to the fields of medicine and engineering, he said.

"Some of the vocational schools are positioning themselves to become community colleges," Hornberger said.

The career center also incorporates special-education components into its 47 programs. In culinary arts, those students first are taught skills such as busing and waiting on tables.

"It's a huge program, and we take them the whole way up to chef," Hornberger said.

Alternative education students focus their time in labs opposed to classrooms, he said.

Hornberger feels the Lehigh career center is unique in providing for students' graduation from their home schools and serves as a model to other regions. Yet, he acknowledges comprehensive programs are an expensive venture.

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