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Tyrone Area approves changes to career and technology program

Last night, the Tyrone Area School Board voted on changes to its career and technology program.
The administration had proposed adding a protective services program and eliminating its automotive mechanics program. The board approved the protective services program designed to provide training in law enforcement, fire fighting and emergency services. In a separate motion, the board voted 5 to 3 to eliminate the automotive mechanics program.
Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller had previously said, “We are offering it, on the one hand, because of the demand and the interest of the students. On the other hand, we are dropping a much more expensive program in auto tech.”
The yearly cost of the new program will be about $50,000, which includes the instructor’s salary, benefits and class materials. High School Principal Dr. Rebecca Erb said about 50 students had signed up for the protective services program. The automotive mechanics program had about 20 students signed up for the 2006-07 school year. Dr. Miller said enrollment in the program had been dwindling and had been at about 20 students the last couple of years.
The district estimated the cost of the automotive program would be about $95,000 had it been kept on-site for the next school year. The figure included salary, benefits and a $35,000 in equipment. An expense that the district said was ongoing to kept the auto shop updated.
“It’s always a concern when you have to eliminate a program,” said Dr. Miller. “With a certain amount of grief, we had to look at it and evaluate it, with the number of students participating in the program it’s basically prohibitive.”
Dr. Miller had previously said students enrolled in the automotive program were offered “a second choice.” The district plans to send letters to the students who had selected automotive mechanics informing them of the elimination of the program. The affected students will be encouraged to come in to the school to work selecting another option.
“We’re going to encourage them to look at some other program possibilities,” said Dr. Miller. “We might try to incorporate some small engine repair into the ag shop to compliment some of those programs and provide opportunities for the students. Our first effort is to provide a program for the kids here.”
Those students still wanting to participate in the automotive program will have to pass a test to qualify for placement at the Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center. The cost is $5,000 per student to attend the technology center’s automotive program.
School board members Peter Dutrow, Brian Bressler and Ray Detwiler opposed the elimination of the district’s on-site automotive mechanics program.
Dutrow said, “I’m very proud of our vocational program and the job we’re doing. I just hate to see us lose those programs. I can’t endorse it.”
Dutrow mentioned a couple of vocational programs had been eliminated.
Bressler said he didn’t agree with wording in the motion to eliminate the automotive program that said it was “in the best interests of the students.”
“That’s a false statement,” said Bressler. “The state’s department of education makes us put that wording in that motion. I’m not in agreement with that statement. I’d much rather not see it (the automotive program) eliminated.
“We’ve really had a good program here over the years,” said Bressler. “I’d really like to see it continue in some form. I don’t want to see our vocational program here die completely.”
Detwiler said, “It’s a shame the rest of the board members (those voting to eliminate the program) didn’t think it was important enough to keep in place and to keep funding.”
The votes by the school board last night allow the district to seek approval from the state’s Department of Education for the changes. Dr. Miller said the approval from the PDE is a formality.