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By Toni DeRosa
Wasco Tribune 

Training center set to close

Will be replaced by WHS classes

 

Toni DeRosa | Wasco Tribune

Security and Law Enforcement students at North Kern Vocational Training Center.

The North Kern Vocational Training Center board voted to shut down on June 30, after more than 40 years of operation, due to changes in state funding that have plagued the center since 2008.

Some instructors questioned why they were just learning about this closure so close to the end of the school year

"I've been on this board for 30 years. We've been up and down in the past, and we always managed to make it through," board member Wayne Montgomery said.

"Funding for our program has been difficult and complicated," Executive Director Amy E. Bean said. "In 2008, Governor Jerry Born implemented new funding for schools, known as Local Control Funding Framework, for vocational training programs through school districts.

In other words, the programs at the center have been operating with a 2008 budget. Even though costs have risen since 2008, the money allocated for vocational training has remained at that level.

"We kept wondering if the year we were in would be the last year we would be operational," Bean said. "However, we've managed to hold on since 2008."

The NKVTC began nearly 40 years' ago under a joint powers agreement between Delano Joint Union High School District, the McFarland Unified School District and the Wasco Union High School District.

The current board members of the NKVTC are Joel Ackernecht, Wayne Montgomery, Joe Roman, Ernie Sanchez and Jesus Cardenas.

"This agreement was created at a time when the school districts were much smaller and sharing resources between the schools was more cost-effective and provided a greater selection of vocational opportunities than might have been available through the students' home district," WUHSD Principal Kevin Tallon said in a press release last Thursday.

District officials explained that education has changed in preparing students for their future.

"Vocational education is currently merging vocational-learning courses with academic clusters where students learn a wide range of transferable skills and then would have the option of furthering their education or entering the workforce," Tallon said in the release.

The school district plans to continue to offer career technical education classes to prepare students for a future that requires both academic and technical skills.

NKVTC operates under different state Education Code requirements, and is known as a regional occupational program. There are many such programs throughout California. Since the change in funding, most of the smaller ROPs like NKVTC have closed.

The center provided career-technical training in northern Kern County, which included Wasco and Delano. McFarland withdrew from the agreement entirely, leaving Wasco and Delano to absorb much of the same operational costs.

Training at the center prepared students for careers in construction, nurse assistant, medical assistant, retail, medical receptionist, security, law enforcement, and auto body and fender repair.

According to Tallon, the district will promote the following industry sectors in its curriculum: construction management, industrial automation, public health, public safety and general education teaching. He said that those offerings will expand the district's current career pathways in agriculture, culinary arts and multimedia.

Several students addressed the board at the meeting expressing their unhappiness with the closing of the vocational training center's closure.

Senior Ricardo Jimenez graduates this June. "I have been in this program for two years," he said. "Because of the training I received, I hope to become a teacher."

Additionally, junior Vincent Villanueva, who was in the law enforcement program, said that he will most likely continue at Wasco High. Another junior Jacob Martinez also in law enforcement said that he would probably attend Wasco High to finish his high school classes.

A tour of the classrooms gave insight into how the students feel about the center and what they've learned.

"The best thing I took away from this class is that we are all the same," said industrial production student Lucio Rivera.

Construction instructor John Steward was teaching a class of construction on constructing a new press box for the Wasco Reserves baseball team coming to town. Steward the stadium was built during the 1070s for another baseball team that came to Wasco to play.

"The students get a hands-on experience," Steward said. "Last year, students built a regular house, roofed another house and poured concrete."

Toni DeRosa | Wasco Tribune

Construction students building a new press box for the Wasco Reserves at the Ballpark.

Steward stated that he has probably taught over 2,000 students in construction skills.

Nursing Assistant student Kimberly Guzman said, "We go to an off-campus site for four months where we earn 100 hours of clinical experience. I want to be a certified nursing assistant and work one-on-one with patients."

"We appreciate the North Kern Vocational Training Center staff and their service to our students and community," Tallon said. "We are developing a plan to ensure that there are sufficient CTE opportunities available for students in the 2020 school year. We plan to provide more information at a meeting scheduled in June.

The district will address changes in the vocational training program at an open meeting in the high school cafeteria on Tuesday, June 18, at 6 p. m.

 

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