IW drops Pruden

Published 1:51 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In-school vocational offerings to be expanded

By Matt Leonard

Staff writer

The Isle of Wight County School Board voted unanimously last week to break ties with the Pruden Center and develop in-house career and technical education (CTE) classes that the county believes will more closely align with community employment needs.

The proposed CTE plan presented by Assistant Superintendent Heather Tuck at last week’s board meeting is a three-year plan for bringing different classes to Smithfield and Windsor high schools to better cater to the needs of the 55 percent of students who don’t go to college.

The board’s vote to discontinue the county’s involvement with Pruden means the relationship will end during the 2017-18 school year. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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The plan for that first year is to bring in about 12 different programs between the two schools, which would include a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program, classes for emergency medical technician certification, engineering and agriculture.

In the second and third years of the program, Tuck said there would be a few additional courses in fields like fire fighting and welding.

Tuck said the county wouldn’t make any firm decisions on what classes it wants to offer in the second and third years until it becomes clear what classes would be the most beneficial to both students and area employers.

The courses they do plan on offering are in areas where job growth is expected. This includes a projected 31 percent growth for CNAs and a 27 percent growth in welding, according to Tuck’s presentation.

“They just went through a round of layoffs down at the shipyard,” Tuck said. “Not a single welder was let go.”

Windsor and Smithfield will not be offering the same vocational programs, Tuck said. But if a student’s interest is piqued by a course at the other school, then they will be able to travel to the other location for the classes.

This change in technical education comes after observations that over, the last three years, the highest number of certifications Isle of Wight students received from Pruden was 66 in one year.

The county pays $950,000 for 220 slots at the center, which means those 66 certificates each cost the county $14,394.

Thornton and Tuck have both said that, once the funds used for Pruden are no longer tied up in the center, they’ll be able to fund the new technical programs at no additional cost to the county.

The schools will also save money by moving some of the current courses online, specifically personal finance.

Thornton said that if the current personal finance teachers can’t find a spot in the new vocational landscape, they may have to be let go.

In a brief discussion before the vote took place, a few board members voiced support for what they considered a progressive idea.

“I think that’s great,” said Vicky Hulick, Newport’s board representative. “I think we’re going to be able to serve so many more students, I think where we’re going is excellent.”

This desire to serve more students was a central point of Tuck’s original presentation.

In reference to courses offered at Pruden, Tuck said the county was “focusing on the wrong things right now.”  {/mprestriction}