LORDSTOWN School officials explore options for career center

Niles, which sends the most students to the James center, rejected the new contract last month.
LORDSTOWN -- School officials are looking at their options for vocational education since Niles opted to pull out of the Gordon D. James Career Center compact.
Superintendent Ray Getz said he's trying to organize a meeting with the other superintendents whose districts are part of the compact to discuss possibilities. School districts in the compact are Lordstown, Howland, Niles, McDonald and Weathersfield.
The contract spelling out the terms of the compact expires in June. Niles school board members rejected a new five-year agreement last month, objecting to the length of the contract and a lack of control.
New career center: Because Niles sends the most students to the James Center, it also pays the most in tuition. Niles board members haven't voted to join the Trumbull County Technical and Career Center, but some of them have indicated that's their preference.
School districts that send students to TCTC don't pay tuition, but property owners in those districts are assessed a property tax of about 2 mills without a vote.
The five-year contract rejected by Niles was approved by the other school district boards. Without Niles' participation, however, the future of the center looks dim.
If the other districts opt to join TCTC, that 2 mills also would be assessed to property and business owners in the other school districts.
"We've got to move on and plan for our students," Getz said. "Students need to have a place to attend vocational programs next year."
Under the law: Pat Huston, resource development consultant with the Ohio Department of Education's office of career, technical and adult education, said the law requires school districts to provide career and technical education for students in grades 11 and 12.
Districts must provide at least 20 classes and 12 programs. If a district changes its career and technical provider, it must submit a plan to the education department by the 20th of the month before the state board meeting.
The state board generally meets the second Monday of each month.
Options: Getz points to three options spelled out in the state statute: establishing and maintaining a vocational education program, being a member of a joint vocational school district or contracting for vocational education with a joint vocational school district.
"The first one is very interesting," Getz said. "We're looking to see if it would be cost-effective."
Some districts opt for their own vocational curriculum, with different programs provided at different school buildings. Getz said he's trying to get more information on the three options from state officials.
"If we can provide adequate vocational programs and not pass the additional tax onto the property and business owners, we certainly want to do that," the superintendent said.
The district needs to get a plan in place as soon as possible, he said.
"We're trying to do that in a way that's cost-effective, that serves the taxpayers, and that allows students to choose vocational programs for September," Getz said. "That doesn't get done in August. Students need to know where they're going and what to sign up for."

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