PDCCC, IW meeting recall differs

Published 1:05 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Recollections of the content of an October meeting between Isle of Wight County school officials and Paul D. Camp Community College appear to differ concerning details of a proposed $10 million in-house Career and Technical Education program.

PDCCC’s possible input and collaboration became an issue during a recent Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors work session on the division’s proposed CTE program.

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Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Alphin said that the Board had invited PDCCC President Dr. Dan Lufkin to the meeting to hear his input on the schools’ proposal, which would require the county to take out a $10 million loan to cover the cost of new equipment. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

At Thursday’s School Board meeting, Isle of Wight County schools Assistant Superintendent Heather Tuck and Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said they met last October with Lufkin and went over the specific details of plans to implement multiple new CTE courses at the division’s two high schools.

Lufkin, on the other hand, had previously said he became aware of the proposed new CTE program the same time the public did — at two pep rallies held in February at Smithfield and Windsor high schools.

On Monday of this week, Lufkin said there was a meeting in October to discuss initiating possible associate degree programs. He added that he had a productive meeting with Thornton this week, on March 13.

Tuck told the School Board that the only aspect Lufkin had not been briefed on was the new facilities the division has planned, which include renovated media centers at the high schools and a farm at Windsor Elementary School, as well as a Makerspace, multi-use pavilion and JROTC building at Smithfield High School, the latter funded by a $3 million donation by Smithfield Foods. 

Thornton, however, said during Thursday’s School Board meeting that Lufkin was made aware at the October meeting of the division’s plans for a structure known as the “E building” behind Smithfield High School, in which the division plans to house a new Makerspace, mechatronics lab, global logistics lab, welding lab, health sciences academy and culinary arts kitchen.

“From October to the present, [Lufkin’s] yet to come by my staff or me in particular to share any plan that he might have that’s different than what we presented, until the other night at the Board of Supervisors meeting,” said Thornton. “To be fair, the opportunity was in October if he thought he could deliver us a different program.”

“Our plan is in motion and our plan is solid and is, we feel like, the best plan for our students.”

 School Board member Kristin Cook said that she felt the division was made out to be the “bad guys” at last month’s Board of Supervisors meeting, where the division made a request of a $10 million loan from the county to pay for the new courses and high school renovations.

“I really resent the corner that I felt we were backed into,” said Cook. “A partnership is only a partnership if it works for both of us.”

Cook also noted that PDCCC is looking to raise money for a nursing program in Smithfield.

“We do have a nursing program,” Cook said of Smithfield High School. “It seemed that we could help Paul D. Camp at this point if they could partner with us.”

At the School Board meeting, Tuck presented the division’s plan to work with PDCCC to qualify the division’s teachers to teach more dual enrollment courses in order for the division to offer an associate degree program.

In order to teach a dual enrollment course, teachers need to have a masters degree, or 18-plus master level hours of master-level education in the subject.

Smithfield High School’s new facilities may also be made available for adult night courses as part of the partnership, according to Tuck.

However, using Paul D. Camp’s facilities at its Franklin campus is not a viable option, according to Tuck, as it would still mean they would have to be bused there.

A time-consuming commute was one of the primary reasons the division is opting out of the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology, where students had the option of taking CTE courses in Suffolk, according to Tuck. Other reasons given last year for ending the relationship with Pruden included that out of the 220 slots the county paid for, only about one hundred or so were being filled annually. Furthermore, the highest number of student certifications received in a single year was only 66.

“If we moved to Paul D. Camp Community College, it doesn’t change the problem,” said Tuck during her presentation, regarding the commute.

The commute to Pruden from Smithfield High School is about 22 minutes, and to PDCCC’s campus from the high school takes roughly 50 minutes.

However, the commute from Windsor High School to the Pruden Center is a mere nine-minute drive, and to get to PDCCC’s campus from Windsor High is 26 minutes, roughly the same amount of time it takes to travel to Smithfield High School from Windsor, according to Google maps.

CTE courses offered at each of the high schools will be open to students from either school, according to administrators. The commute to Smithfield from Windsor is double the time it takes to travel from Windsor High to Pruden, and driving from Smithfield to Windsor High is almost the same amount of time it takes to travel from Smithfield High to Pruden.

Aside from the commute, however, a redesigned CTE-friendly high school schedule being developed by the division would not jive with the traditional schedule of a community college, according to Tuck.

The $10 million loan requested from the county would be paid back through money previously used to pay for 220 slots at the Pruden Center, according to Thornton.

A major hurdle to the associate degree plan for the high schools is that according to the state, schools cannot have an associate degree-qualifying course where one student is a dual enrollment student, and another is taking the course for high school credit only. The courses would need to be offered separately.

The division plans to challenge the restriction.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said he has been working to try and get the state to do away with the regulation for several years, as teachers are supposed to differentiate instruction between students regardless of the credits in the course.

“We’re not winning that argument … currently,” Thornton said, but administrators are still working on a solution.  {/mprestriction}