OCS talks votech classes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Officials with the Opp Board of Education are currently working to solve a dilemma: whether or not to offer vocational classes at Opp High School during the 2014-15 school year.
During the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, retired OHS vocational teacher Tracy Weaver spoke briefly to the board in favor of keeping the program in force by hiring a teacher to fill the currently open slot.

“We have a need for vocational classes,” Weaver said. “They provide students a glimpse of job opportunities. Stats show that the top 10 jobs in Alabama now requires a two-year (associate) degree. We have at least 50 OHS grads employed in vocational roles right now. I know the job opportunities in Opp are declining; let’s set these kids up to find jobs.”

Board President Rothel Moody said members are taking the matter under consideration and have yet to make a decision, adding that even a move to eliminate the program would only a temporary.

“We may or may not fill that position this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to drop it altogether,” Moody said.

Superintendent Michael Smithart said there are several factors that must be taken into consideration before a final decision is made by the board.

“It’s important to note that a final decision has not been made yet,” Smithart said. “But we look at the data to try and drive what we’re doing, and the vast majority of our kids are showing interest in things like social work and graphic design and things like that that we don’t offer. The vast majority.”

Smithart also pointed to dual enrollment classes at Lurleen B. Wallance Community College’s MacArthur campus in Opp as a tool students can utilize in order to access vocational classes.

“Classes we offer at OHS, for the most part, are offered at the college with no tuition and no cost for books to start a career track as a sophomore,” Smithart said. “It’s the board’s call, but my mindset is let’s offer something they can’t get somewhere else.”

Smithart did say there are areas of agriscience, specifically horticulture, not offered at LBW. He also referred to board member William Hines’ concerns over special needs students’ ability to take part in vocational classes as a “very valid point.”

“Special education students may not be able to go to LBW,” Hines, a special education teacher, said. “These students aren’t going to go to college and could really benefit from some of these life skills.”

Smithart said the issue is pressing, with the new school year less than a month away, but asked the board for more time to consider its options.

“We will be meeting again prior to passing the budget,” he said. “We’ll come back with three or four scenarios. It would be a heck of lot easier to just do what’s been done in the past, but I think we need to come together and ask, ‘What’s best for these kids?’”