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Career center principal to step down

August 29, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The past four years at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center have been interesting for Principal Michele Orner as the six school districts that send students have tried to resolve issues about its operation and future.

"I've had four outstanding years here," said Orner, who will leave in October to become an 11th-grade principal at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. "Good things happen at this school every day."

While that might be true, the center is experiencing changes unlike anything that has happened previously in its 40-year history.

A few years ago, the Chambersburg Area School District experimented with its students going half a day all year while other schools sent students one semester at a time. That experiment was ended and Chambersburg opted to send its students to the center year-round for both vocational and academic instruction.

One of the districts, Fannett-Metal, has also decided to pull out of the center's Joint Operating Committee and the articles of agreement between the districts are being revamped.

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Chambersburg also proposed buying and operating the center, which met with resistance from the other districts. Current plans are for the districts to do a $15 million expansion of the center while Chambersburg adds a $21 million academic wing for its students.

In recent years, enrollment slipped, but Orner told the Joint Operating Committee Thursday night that scores were up last year and enrollment will be about 150 students higher than in 2008-09.

As of Aug. 20, the number of students enrolled in the center was 871, Orner said. That number is expected to grow before school starts, she said.

The enrollment include 49 ninth-grade Chambersburg students in a career exploration program entering its second year. Thirty-two tuition students from Gettysburg High School will attend in the second semester, she said.

National Occupational Competency Testing Institute scores are also up, Orner said.

Ninety-three percent of students scored competent or advanced in their trades. On the written portion of the test, 57 percent of students were competent or advanced, up 5 percent, but an area the center must focus on, she said.

"I'm finishing up my doctorate at Dusquesne University ... My goal is to be a superintendent," said Orner, who has her superintendent's letter of eligibility. The best avenue to advance that plan, she said, was in "a comprehensive high school environment."

Orner's resignation is effective Oct. 19, three weeks later than the Sept. 26 date on her letter. Committee Chairman Stanley Helman said the date was changed to fulfill a 60-day notice requirement.

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