Archive for Thursday, January 15, 2004

Voc-ed could branch off Greenbush

January 15, 2004

The Greenbush vocational education center in Eudora could soon become Eudora's vocational education center. With the Olathe schools considering backing away from the southeast Kansas-based educational consortium, Eudora USD 491 is considering breaking away as well.
Superintendent Marty Kobza said he was in talks with De Soto schools' Superintendent Sharon Zoellner. The two districts share students and facilities in the vocational education program.
Eudora is to let De Soto know what it plans to do with the vocational program by early next month.
Because a quorum wasn't present Thursday at the portion of the Board of Education meeting during which the issue was discussed, Kobza said an emergency meeting could be called, if necessary, to make a decision.
Another factor playing into the decision-making timeline is the approaching deadline for VE-II grants.
Rick Tremain, a Greenbush instructor of vocational technology courses in Olathe, said if the decision were made it would be one based completely on the budget crunches that all school districts are facing.
"School districts are just hurting right now," Tremain said. "It's an unfortunate situation that leaves them with no options, and something has to be done. There are certain programs that are just going to have to be cut."
If Eudora decided to run its own vocational education program, the most obvious benefit would be the school district's ability to govern the program at the cost of hiring a half-time administrator. Eudora would continue to house auto collision repair, health careers sciences and culinary arts, and De Soto would continue to house printing and plant nursery. Kobza said a building trades program, currently in Basehor-Linwood, could come in the future.
"It's just a situation where we're looking to be proactive," said Eudora High School Assistant Principal Ron Abel. "Our goal has always been to try and work together with surrounding school districts to make our programs better."
It would also be hoped, Kobza said, to bring students in from other districts as well.
"We'll market this to distribute around the area," he said. "I think the door has been cracked with Lawrence."
Zoellner echoed those statements.
"We are pleased with the participation we are having," Zoellner said. "We would like to have more."
If Eudora ran the program, Kobza said, the classes would be offered all day. Participating schools would pay for a certain number of slots in the program up-front. Whether enough students enrolled to fill the slots, the districts would still be financially responsible.
However, districts could sell their slots, with Eudora getting the first crack at it because USD 491 would be buying the most slots up front and assuming the greatest financial risk.
"We like the idea knowing our kids are guaranteed slots," Kobza said.
It was costing the district about $5,700 per student to be part of the Greenbush program, but it would cost just $3,400 per student if Eudora ran its own program. Moreover, Eudora would sell its slots for about $4,000, both making money for the district and saving purchasing districts the money they would spend on another program.
On its own, Eudora would be cutting the money spent on administration, community relations and other programs. The district would also absorb money for rent from other districts.
But overcoming districts' pride in their own programs would be a challenge in recr uiting other schools, Kobza said.
"It's hard to share," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to say, 'You have a great thing. Can we join?'"
Greenbush would continue to be in charge of the community education center. Housed at the former school building downtown, the center allows high school dropouts to complete their education at an individualized pace and program.
The program had enrolled about 70 students, Kobza said, just about a dozen of whom were high school-student age.
-- Contributing: Ben McCarthy

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