JAMES CAREER CENTER Students worry about future

One student said her grades rose dramatically after she started at the James center.
LORDSTOWN -- Many students at the Gordon D. James Career Center say they're happy with their classes and teachers and they want to stay there.
The future of the center is uncertain after Niles, which sends the most students to the center and pays the most tuition, decided not to enter a new contract to stay with the compact beyond this school year.
The school districts remaining in the compact are Lordstown, Weathersfield, Howland and McDonald.
Niles is seeking an affiliation with the Trumbull County Career and Technical Center. Niles board members have said they favor a full-day class schedule, rather than the half day offered by the James center. They also objected to the length of the proposed new contract and a lack of control.
That leaves the remaining districts to decide how they will continue to meet the state requirement of providing career and technical education for juniors and seniors and students worried about their future.
Upset: Rachel McNeal, 17, and Sandy Davis, 17, of Lordstown, and Sabrina Barber, 16, of Niles, all juniors in the center's culinary arts program, are upset that they've been left in limbo.
"I didn't like it at the beginning of the school year," Barber said. "But now I like the classes, the students and the teachers."
She doesn't want to go to the county vocational school. She'll opt for a program that would enable her to work for part of the school day, rather than attend TCTC, she said.
McNeal and Davis say they'll probably remain at their regular school rather than go to TCTC. They also worry about the money they paid in program and uniform fees going to waste.
"It's too far to drive, for one thing," McNeal said of the county vocational school.
She also worries about sophomores, including her younger sister, who wanted to attend the James center. "They wanted to come here and experience the things that we've experienced," McNeal said.
All three girls point to their teacher, Valerie Skelly, as a key reason they enjoy their classes. They also worry about their teachers' jobs if the center closes.
"Last year I got Ds and Fs, but I got here and I set my goals and I just made the honor roll for the second time," Davis said.
Different view: Seniors Robert Frye and Jason Boylan view the situation differently. They say they wouldn't have a problem going to TCTC if they were returning for another year.
"I didn't learn anything I didn't already know," said Frye, 19, of Howland.
Both are enrolled in the school's auto mechanics program.
"The Trumbull Career and Technical Center has more programs kids can choose from," said Boylan, 18, of Niles.
Kevin Bradway, 18, and Amanda Sullivan, 17, both of Niles and enrolled in the center's interactive multimedia program, are upset about the career center's fate.
"I signed up for two years here and I want to stay at the career center," said Sullivan, a junior.
"The whole situation makes students unsure about where they'll be next year," added Bradway, a senior.
They said it's been a topic of discussion at school and in the community.
People ask Sullivan where she's going to school next year, and she doesn't know what to tell them.
Even though Bradway will graduate at the end of the school year and won't be affected by the change, he's still upset about it. He knows some sophomores he says looked forward to attending the James center next year.
Felt shut out of decision: Both he and Sullivan object to the way the decision was made by Niles to leave the center.
"The students and the community should have had a say," Sullivan said.
"The future of all the students and the teachers here was in the hands of those board members," Bradway added.
If the James center closes next year, Alvin Little and Ryan Gallo, both juniors from McDonald, will likely choose to stay in their home school rather than attend TCTC.
The morning class schedule at Gordon James enables Ryan to attend classes at McDonald in the afternoon and then go to football practice. TCTC has a full day of classes.
"If I go there, I'd be late for football practice," said Gallo, 17, who is studying building trades.
Weathersfield students Mike Jolliff, 16, a sophomore, and Greg Rihel, 17, a junior, also are concerned about the possibility of the career center's closing.
"This is the first year I've ever gotten a B on my report card," said Jolliff, who is studying vocational readiness.
The program exposes students to a variety of vocational programs.
Rihel doesn't want to go to TCTC.
"It's a farther drive and we have a nice school here," he said. "We learn a lot here. The teachers don't rush things through."

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