District to Offer Expanded Career Tech, STEM Programs

By: 
TERESA DOWLING
Staff Writer

With all of the excitement surrounding Tri Star Career Compact and the upcoming opening of Tri Star 2.0, St. Marys City Schools is taking the next step to prepare its students for the growing field of career technologies.

The district was recently awarded an Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grant through the Ohio Department of Education. The $450,000 grant will allow the school to purchase equipment to give students an idea of the benefits they can earn through taking career technology courses while in high school and offer an alternative pathway to graduation. 

“The grant will expand options for graduation through credentialing,” Superintendent Bill Ruane explained in a statement. “Students who do not receive the required 18 points on the state mandated academic tests can attempt several credentialing pieces that are offered within the manufacturing pathway. There will be opportunities to earn 12 points of credentials, which can help lead some students to a diploma.”

The grant was applied for out of a request by Memorial High School Agricultural Education teacher Lucy Bambauer for an engraving machine. Ruane said when she approached him about the engraver and the price was presented, he initially was concerned about where the money would come from until he remembered the EOEC grant.

“This all started three months ago when Lucy walked into my office and asked for an engraver,” he said. “We put our heads together with [MHS Principal] Jon Burke and [Curriculum Director] Kim Overman and we came up with this idea on how to get equipment for our school to better prepare our students.”

The program the team came up with will create a career technologies manufacturing pathway, offering eighth-grade students exploratory options to interact with the new pathway. The three year life of the grant will allow the school to add additional courses to expand the pathway to offer courses and certifications to students in their freshman and sophomore years as well.

In addition to giving students the option to get certifications through St. Marys, the program can also work as a pre-Tri Star pathway to give students an idea of what courses are offered through the career compact.

“These courses will feed the precision machining, CADD/Engineering tech, welding, REC Tech and agricultural industrial tech classes,” Ruane said. “The grant was also written to give the roughly 40% of our graduates that enter the workforce directly after graduation with a way to gain more specialized skills and have a competitive advantage over other applicants because of the skills and training they receive from the classes.”

The first year of the grant will provide the district with $232,000 for the purchase of two new welders, a virtual welder — a safe option for less experienced students — plasma cutter, 3D printer, 30 new computers with AutoCAD software, interactive monitors for classrooms, a final cutter and online modules to prepare students for credentialing.

Future purchases with the approximately $110,000 in years two and three include new mills and lathes as well as a forklift simulator and hands-on equipment for high school STEM classes.

In addition, the grant covers the cost of certifying Mike Reams, Scott Schlosser and Brooke Gray who will be the main teachers delivering the new curriculum.

While the benefits for the students is obvious to the board, the benefits to local industry is also something to consider.

“They come to manufacturing with experience and as part of local industry, I’m excited,” said Gayle Howell, supervisor with Crown Equipment Corporation in New Knoxville. “This is an incredible thing to offer these kids.”

The process of getting the new equipment is already underway as Treasurer Robin Laman explained that the state requires the district to start appropriating the funds by the end of the 2019 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Board member Ronda Shelby asked if the grant is renewable after the three years are up and Ruane explained that while the grant is not renewable, but by getting teachers certified, the district will be able to bring in additional money to keep the programs funded. 

“We are excited about the potential opportunities for our students,” Ruane’s statement said. “This will allow us to continue our goal of offering many opportunities to meet the individual needs of all students to graduate college or career ready.”

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