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Let's focus on school's positives
By CLARITY BATES
Published October 30, 2007
Re: It's time to reassess school mission, reality Oct. 21 editorial, and related stories and letters
I returned to this county as a taxpayer after graduating from college, and after working in other counties that offered far higher salaries. I think that, as usual, the taxpayers, the Hernando County School Board and educators are suffering a miscommunication. Having attended public school K-12 in this county, and having lived for more than 31 years, I feel qualified to make that statement.
Today's definition of a vocational-technical school: an upper-level school that offers regular academic courses, as well as vocational courses such as construction, automotive and mechanics. Today's technology no longer includes just the television, so this term embraces welding, computers, business and food services.
The definition of today's alternative school: schools that offer a diverse range of students a flexible selection of courses to choose from, along with its academic course of study.
Definition of today's magnet school: schools that tend to focus on one particular academic area or discipline, such as arts/theater/drama, or math/science/engineering, or technical/vocational education. Some magnet schools employ an admissions process.
I find myself caring not so much if we will have able young men and women who will be able to pave roads and work on the irrigation systems of our county's golf courses, but if we will be able to lure young men and women back to our county to pay them to fix my computer when it breaks down, or my big-screen television, or my vehicle, which is run by a complex computer system.
I am not so much concerned about the availability of sanitation engineers or masons as I am about the availability of students who have the room at a public school to train in heating and air-conditioning, which I believe the majority of us miss when they don't work.
I note that the computer technician who was hired from Michigan who could make between $60,000 and $75,000 a year was trained by one of Nature Coast's student graduates. I also note that the school and its students have gone out of their way to ingrain themselves into the community before the students have even graduated.
The chef of their culinary arts program finds a job for all his graduates who stay in the community, and I believe they cater to many local events. I know that the Nature Coast Technical High School band has played at local bar mitzvahs and weddings. The cosmetology department offers its services for a discounted price and many students have found jobs in Hernando County. The automotive department offers oil changes and the informational technology department assists citizens with computers, Web design and business advertising. The school's graphics arts department not only prints the T-shirts for all of the other high schools, but for many businesses, and prints business cards, too.
These are all experiences students have used to get jobs. Are these not skills? Nature Coast students are aides at Chocachatti Elementary School, where they read to the students and do minor secretarial chores for teachers. Other students work in the school's medical department, where they get experience in the school's day care center, local assisted living facilities and hospitals. Students studying law go to the Hernando County Courthouse each Monday. One of the school's clubs has given back to the community by completely restoring the Brooksville Cemetery.
Yet we have headlines begging the School Board to give students skills, and articles hoping to dismantle the school so as to better train these students to stay in the community?
I agree with guest columnist Michael Batchelder, who stated that the board should not be so quick to assume these young men and women will not be coming back to work in this area. I think it's more important to offer them the positions they're looking for, instead of just the housing, which no one is looking for. Pay these up-and-coming professionals what they're worth, but realize they need more than a high school education in many cases, and are ready to go out and acquire what they need to become productive citizens.
It may be that the original intent of the school was for students whose academic abilities were declining. Is it such a bad thing, though, to have taken that idea and those students and turned them around so they want to now attend colleges and finishing schools, so that they have flourished in athletics, so that they have succeeded in their academics to the point they have not only done well, but achieved well above the state average on their FCAT scores? Exactly why are we complaining about this?
Masonry, carpentry, bricklaying - these are actually things one can learn from books at Home Depot. We should be pleased these well-educated young men and women of "Wayne's World" will be making something of themselves with skills that we will find useful in our own back yard, as the alternative is poor test scores, poor achievement scores and lack of preparation for the work force.
Instead of relentlessly crying about the negatives at Nature Coast Technical High School, let us emphasize what we have: the silver lining, a positive environment for students in Hernando County to attend school and prepare themselves for their futures.
Clarity Bates lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do no necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.