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Expert outlines keys for Pa. career center's sucecss

December 07, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A consultant to the Chambersburg Area School District Wednesday listed his recommendations for major changes at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, changes that would require the consent of the other five participating school districts to implement.

"It describes the enormity of the task ahead of us," Thomas Orndorf, the newly-elected president of the school board said of the recommendations by Thomas R. Winters, a former deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

With members of the school boards from other districts in attendance, Winters recommended the 38-year-old career and technology center be expanded from its current capacity of about 1,000 occupational education students in grades 10 through 12, to 1,500 in grades nine through 12. There would be academic classroom space for 1,100 of those students, according to his report.

"The academic aspect of career and technology education is as compelling" as the occupational training, Winters said. The academic and occupational programs have to be flexible enough to attract more college-bound students and accommodate the needs of the other districts, he said.

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Last year, Chambersburg experimented with sending its career and technology students to the center a half day, while taking academic courses at the high school the other half of the day. However, the center's Joint Operating Committee, made up of school board members from all the districts, voted last summer to discontinue half-day delivery.

Instead of returning to the past practice of having its students attend a semester at the center and a semester at the high school, Chambersburg chose to send them to the center for the entire year, converting unused shop space to academic classrooms.

Winters' recommendation was for the center to go to half-day delivery, as do 58 of the 86 vocational education schools in Pennsylvania.

"Semester about does not work academically" Winters said. Half-day delivery, he said, provides greater flexibility in providing both occupational and academic instruction, Winters said.

The academic classes should be in a separate wing, Winters said. The number of occupational programs offered, he said, should be increased from the current 20 to 33 to address local work force needs and respond to student interest.

The image of the center also has to be changed so students, parents, educators and others do not perceive it as a dumping ground for under-achievers, he said.

"The first thing we've got to do is decide this is not a school you send students that don't want to sit through English class," said Alan Kohler of Chambersburg, the manager of a truck dealership in Hagerstown. "It's got to be a comprehensive school."

If the district takes over operational control of the center, Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said its programs will be "menu-driven" to provide as many options to students and the school districts as possible. He said the Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Fannett-Metal, Tuscarora and Shippensburg school districts would send their students for both academic and occupational instruction.

Padasak said he wants to persuade the other districts to go along with Chambersburg's proposals for the district between now and March. Chambersburg wants to have as many as 1,000 of its students eventually attend the center, while renovating and expanding the high school, as well.

The board also voted to have an architect prepare a feasibility study for the center and to have the building appraised.

In order to gain operational control of the center, Orndorf said Chambersburg might be required to buy the shares of the facility held by the other districts.

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