The superintendent says the district took what officials thought was the best of three alternatives.
By MARY SMITH
McDONALD -- A special edition of the district's School House newsletter has been sent to residents, explaining the reasons for switching vocational students to the Trumbull Career and Technical Center.
The board of education voted Monday to join TCTC. The vocational school board formally accepted McDonald students in a vote Thursday.
McDonald, Weathersfield and Niles schools all have left the five-district compact that made up Gordon D. James Career Center in Lordstown. The other two compact members, Lordstown and Howland, have not decided how they will provide vocational instruction to their students.
Residents in school districts that send students to TCTC pay a 2-mill tax levy to operate the countywide school.
That tax appears on the ballot every four years.
The five-district compact operated out of the James career center for 25 years until the Niles school board voted in December not to renew its contract. Since Niles sent the most students to the James center and paid the most tuition, that district's change to TCTC put the compact in jeopardy.
Explanation: In the newsletter, McDonald Superintendent Robert Bloniarz details for residents the history of the James center, the financial repercussions of the change, what McDonald's alternatives were and what will happen now.
Bloniarz ends by saying: "Although we are very troubled by the circumstances that caused this decision, we will be entering into an excellent vocational education program.
"The Trumbull Career and Technical Center offers almost three times as many programs as the [Gordon James] Career Center. Our students will be well-served."
Bloniarz notes that the tax associated with TCTC will cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $5 a month and would generate about $90,000 annually to educate the district's vocational students.
Options: Bloniarz stresses the district took the action "reluctantly," but with Niles' decision to leave the Gordon James compact, McDonald had three choices: Stay with the center and see its tuition rise from $215,000 to $400,000 a year; ignore state vocational education minimum requirements and accept a $375,000 reduction in state aid as a penalty; or join TCTC and pay the 2-mill levy.
"For the short- and long-term stability of our educational program, we have only one option available -- to join the Trumbull Career and Technical Center," Bloniarz said in the newsletter.
He said Niles was paying $800,000 annually in tuition, a cost that would have to be absorbed by the other four districts to continue the compact.
McDonald saw the center as "great for our kids and economical for our taxpayers,'' Bloniarz said, because of its relative proximity to home for the district's 21 students who attend it and its emphasis on half-day programs so students can spend the other half in home school programs and extracurricular activities.
The newsletter explains that McDonald officials have spent 18 months negotiating a new contract with Lordstown, and researching all possible options for vocational education.