TRUMBULL COUNTY School officials discuss career center options

Niles, which sends the most students to the center, wants to join the county facility instead.
ASHLAND -- No decisions were made, but representatives from the five school districts making up the Gordon D. James Career Center have a better idea of their options for providing vocational education.
The agreement spelling out the terms of the compact among the five districts expires in June. Niles, which sends the most students to the career center in Lordstown -- and therefore pays the most in tuition costs -- decided last month not to sign a contract for another five years with the group.
Niles officials are seeking an affiliation with the Trumbull County Career and Technical Center.
TCTC hasn't voted on Niles' request.
Remaining districts: That leaves Lordstown, which is the fiscal agent for the center, and Howland, McDonald and Weathersfield schools to decide how to provide career and technical education to their students.
Weathersfield school officials are considering joining TCTC as well.
Officials from each of the James center districts, the Ohio Department of Education and TCTC met Tuesday at the Ashland County West Holmes Career Center to discuss options.
"We have a clearer path of what can happen," said Ray Getz, Lordstown superintendent.
Requirement: Under Ohio law, school districts are required to provide 12 programs and 20 classes in career and technical education for students in their junior and senior years of high school.
Bob Bowers, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction at ODE, said the districts have several options for meeting the requirements.
They can renew the existing contract. The remaining districts can enter a new five-year agreement. They can join an existing career-technical planning district such as TCTC, contract with another facility to provide those services or form their own career-technical planning district, Bowers said.
There are some technical differences between the remaining districts' entering a new contract and the remaining districts' forming their own career-technical planning district, he said.
A career-technical planning district has the power to levy millage, for example. Taxpayers in districts belonging to TCTC are assessed about 2 mills on their property taxes.
Compacts design their own contract, which dictates operations and funding for career and technical education. Each district pays a prescribed amount of tuition to the compact for its students.
Without Niles? It's up to the districts involved to determine if they can continue to operate without Niles, Bowers said. Once a district joins a vocational school district, there's nothing in the law allowing them to leave, he said.
"There's no provision to get out of it once you're in it," Bowers said, adding that the law doesn't address the issue.
No decisions were made at the meeting.
"We didn't attempt to reach a consensus on what's going to happen," Bowers said.
Deadline: The districts must submit a plan to ODE for approval by the time the current James center contract expires, detailing how they will meet the state's requirements for providing career and technical education. Failure to provide the required services could result in a loss of a portion of a district's state funding.
Getz said no more meetings among the member districts have been scheduled.
"Each district will have to decide what is its best option," he said.

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