Bond to open vo-tech opportunities
Like a successful businessman, Jason Gray has seen demand outpace his ability to produce.
The culinary arts instructor at the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center knows offers to cater events create the opportunity for students to apply what they have learned to a real world situation and see how well they can perform. Students can use the experience as a way to tell whether they want to go into the culinary field after they graduate, or if they just like to cook.
In any case, it's not the kind of thing he should be rejecting. But sometimes, he has no choice.
"We've had to turn down catering opportunities from the community because we don't have the size here," Gray said, referring to the tech center, located at 1002 Elm Street. "Eudora has gotten too big, so we have to go to the high school, which is a nightmare in itself because we have to transport all of the students and bring all of our supplies with us."
Space is not the only hurdle, as the tech center location in the old middle school complex on Elm Street is the perfect combination of being too old and too small. Gray also has to deal with not having the wiring or plumbing to support an accurate representation of what students who want to go into the culinary field would see in a professional kitchen.
"We can only accomplish about 40 to 60 percent of the learning that needs to take place at this facility," he said. "The rest has to be done through field trips and job shadowing."
It should come as no surprise that the passage of the school bond Nov. 6 has Gray excited, as the school district will be building new facilities for the career and technical programs as well as possibly adding two new programs.
Eudora High School Assistant Principal and Technical Education Center Director Ron Abel said that tech programs once were pigeonholed as being a place to stick students who weren't successful in the traditional classroom setting, but that is not the way the Eudora School District envisions its programs.
"Career and technical education is simply providing skill training and education about things that kids have interests in and they can take that as far up the road as they can go," Abel said. "The plan is to coordinate it so that when they (students) leave this institution, they can take whatever path they want to, whether that be post-secondary education or the workforce."
There currently are five career and technical programs, with three located at Eudora and two at De Soto. The culinary arts, auto collision and health career sciences programs are in Eudora, while the agriculture and printing and graphic communications programs are in De Soto.
With the passage of the bond, the intent of the school district is to add two more programs: bio-science and industrial maintenance.
The bio-science program would focus on allowing students to pursue becoming a lab technician or a researcher, while the industrial maintenance program would deal with electronics and nano-technologies.
Abel said that the school district would apply for state approval and funding of the new programs as soon as the new facilities were finished, which are set to be ready in the fall of 2010.
The new facilities will house 200 students, or up to 280 students should the proposal for the bio-science and industrial science programs be approved.
They will make it possible for Eudora High School students to stay on campus, as opposed to driving to the tech center location on Elm Street or in De Soto.
"The thrill for me in having this on one campus is it's a lot more manageable," Abel said. "We don't have to worry about transporting kids six miles down the road, and our hope is that other districts will have enough interest that they'll bring people to our programs."
Gray and his pupils continue to make the best of what they have now, but he looks forward to what the new tech center will mean for future classes.
"The students have done such a good job of getting by," he said. "They deserve this."