BERLIN CENTER Students make the grade in business
Plans for next year include adding a storefront and seeking a business partner.
By JOANN JONES
BERLIN CENTER -- It's the end of the school year, and students in Western Reserve High School's Manufacturing Technology Class can breathe sighs of relief.
Because the group ended the fiscal year in the black, everyone passed the course.
Three of the student chief executive officers of the "company," which manufactured and sold T-shirts throughout the school year, recently addressed the board of education, which served as the company's board of directors, to discuss the newly established class and evaluate its success.
"It was trial and error at first," said Ashley Henry, a junior who served as the student company's chief financial officer. "We knew we could do better, so we worked harder."
Henry, along with seniors Ryan Engelhardt and Brian Gorby, explained to the board that the class started in September with 25 students under the tutelage of teachers Mike Groubert and Jay Clark. One student later dropped the course.
Henry explained that at first they didn't have very many jobs to do, but the number of jobs increased during the second grading period. A story in The Vindicator, the students said, gave them exposure and brought in more orders for jobs.
"The biggest ad we had was the article The Vindicator did on us," Gorby said.
"Now there's something on the [T-shirt] printing press every day."
Students had to attend small business seminars, develop a business plan, sell stock, operate computers to create graphic designs and learn how to run the equipment such as the press and dryer, Engelhardt said.
School Superintendent Charles Swindler, who helped set up the course as a real business operation, said the students told him they discovered you have to "work with people even though you don't get along with them."
The course was set up so that everyone got an "A" if the class made a profit, and everyone failed if there were a deficit at the end of the year. Yet, not everyone did their fair share of the work, the CEOs said. The three replied "No!" in unison when board president Robert Hermiller asked if everyone deserved an "A."
Swindler asked if they would have hesitated to fire anyone who might have harmed the business. "Nope," they said.
"The teachers should sit down with the CEOs, managers, and students to evaluate what grade the students should get," Engelhardt said. "Next year the teachers should get to look at the students who sign up first before putting everyone in the class."
Fifty students have signed up for the manufacturing class for the fall, making it a popular course, but also making it necessary for Groubert and Clark, as well as principal Jeff Zatchok, to be selective when placing students in the class.
Gorby suggested those who aren't selected for the course should first take a business theory class to see if they like the business atmosphere. He added that students should also learn how to run the equipment before taking the class.
The course was initially set up so that the company was dissolved at the end of the school year. However, Henry said a lot of community members who had invested by buying stock weren't interested in getting their money back.
"They don't want to go through the hassle of re-purchasing," she said. "They want to roll it over for next year."
When all the bills are paid and the orders for this year are finished, the students said, they anticipate a profit of about $3,000.
Swindler added that the students are looking for a business partner to provide funds, and they have contacted officials of the Timken Company in Canton and are awaiting a reply.
Next year, they said, plans include renovation of an area at the back of the school near the track and football field that will serve as a storefront.