I hope not to take up too much of your valuable time, however I’m compelled to speak to some concerns I have around the elimination of some of the Vocational Trades and Career Technology programs for high school students in our county. I’m hoping you may be so inclined to lend your voice to help save some of these programs or reintroduce them, as it seems some decisions have already been made. It seems these decisions were made under the cloak of darkness and people have not been made aware of the assault that is taking place by some individuals in charge of Career Technology Education. Yourself being a builder for many years I would think can appreciate how important skilled trades are to our area. For years the construction trades of the Career Technology Center have been a nursery for the many local contractors in our area. Several other occupations have been added over the years, such as Health occupations, Nursing Assisting, as well as Child care programs. New programs were added as times had changed and programs added, such as Manufacturing and CNC Machining.
The previous administration and political climate was not a fan of Vocational Training as I’m sure you are aware. The new expectation was that every child would go to college. The students who may have been interested in a trade or career that didn’t require a 4 year college track have been dissuaded from such and pushed to go to college. Not taking into consideration that all students just aren’t college material. There are students who can barely read yet are told they need to go to college and think they will be successful. That is until the reality of college and student loans smacks them in the face. The education agenda has changed and vocational programs are being axed. There are 2 rather important vocational programs and trades that have currently been eliminated from the Wicomico County curriculum for next year. This is Plumbing and Electronics. As would have it my husband is the Plumbing instructor. He’s been teaching plumbing for almost 19 years now. He came through the program when he was in high school. He worked in the trade, has his Master Plumbing and HVAC license and has thoroughly enjoyed teaching over this time. His supervisor came to him and told them his class was being eliminated. He also told him, he wanted to eliminate the program in 2012 but since, for the first time in the programs history, they had a Plumbing student make it to the VICA Skills National contest, it would look bad to get rid of the program at that point. When my husband would talk to kids, they had no idea what was even offered at the Career Technology Center. Several kids had said “man, if I knew I could have done this, I’d have been here!”
So I ask how do you teach a kid to build a house without teaching plumbing? I realize it’s not as flashy as some of the other trades, however it is a skilled construction trade and necessary. My husband has had many success stories of kids that otherwise wouldn’t have made it in college or have a decent job, learn the trade of plumbing and be successful people. I understand the Plumbing and electronics programs in Wicomico county aren’t the only casualties. I understand the electricity program has been eliminated in Worcester County. Eliminating these programs is of a great concern to me. With the aging population of professionals and trades people, there is already a need for trained skilled people. I know from hearing my husband talk to would be employers for his students, they are in need of more skilled people. If our local contractors can’t find them here locally, where will they find them? I believe they won’t and that will leave the projects to go to out of town contractors who bring out of town workers with them. They don’t contribute to our local economy and our area becomes more economically depressed. Construction has certainly taken a beating in recent years, however, it does seem to be turning around. But how long will that last when there is no skilled labor here to fill those jobs. I think you can agree, that the construction trades are easiest done by a younger person, and the existing pool of skilled labor here locally is certainly getting older, retiring, or just can’t physically do the work anymore. I love this area, I’ve raised my family here and hope to stay and see my grandchildren raised here but we are not in a metropolitan areas where white collar jobs are prevalent. The manufacturing jobs are limited, so we need skilled trades. In addition the plumbing program at the Wicomico Career Tech Center is one of only two programs that give the student NCCER credit towards their time for the Journeyman’s Licensing. And that is the Plumbing and HVAC programs. The plumbing program covered a wide range of information from septic systems, back flow certifications, as well as setting fixtures and plumbing the house. He covered residential and commercial mechanical work. Which are things that employers asked that the students know when they would come to work for them.
I hope as not to have wasted your time and hope to hear from you. I ask for your help to reinstate these programs to our Career Technology Center and have a campaign to make sure our kids understand what programs are available to them at the center and help to keep local jobs local.
The other information that I’ve come by, it that apparently the NEW Bennett Middle School is already over crowded! And to the point that there are too many kids on the lunch shifts for the cafeteria to hold and the Fire Marshall has deemed that unsafe. So the kids that are not going to eat a lunch are shuffled to the gym. And one of the administrators who was involved in the planning of Bennett Middle is also involved with the decisions being made in the Career Tech. Center. One of the decisions being made is that the construction group will no longer be building houses for the community. They want the kids and teachers to build portable classrooms. So instead of teaching the students how to build a residential house, they are going to teach them to build boxes, which isn’t going to help them much when it comes to experience in the real world. But it does save the BOE money, because they only have the cost of materials to pay for. Portable classrooms don’t have plumbing, so we don’t need that program anymore. They don’t have electronics built into them, so we don’t need that program either. So maybe the elimination of these two programs will help cover Paul Butlers new salary. It has also been said that a position was created for Jake Day to be paid by the county BOE and receive a pension from them. I’m told this was also the case with other local previously elected officials. The Board is already too heavy with Administration. Is that where our money should go? I don’t believe so. And I don’t believe the local media would explore or give any credence to this information. However when I discuss with people, they are outraged and have had no idea any of this was going on. I hope you can get some of this out so people will know.
Thank you for your time. I would prefer my name not be mentioned since my husband is a teacher, and we fear retaliation.
Publishers Notes: It should be noted that County Executive Bob Culver has NO SAY whatsoever over the Wicomico Board of Education, nor does the County Council. The only say they have is funding in their budget.
It should also be noted that, (from what I heard) that very few, (if any) students signed up to participate in certain programs.