Fighting back

CTE director touts success in the numbers


MILL HALL — In December, Keystone Central School Board member Roger Elling posed this question: “What if we cut the entire CTE (Career and Technical Education) program?”

He acknowledged that asking the question would likely make him the “bad guy,” but he wanted to ask anyway because he said all options must be placed on the table in the face of the district facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit in 2018-2019.

At Thursday night’s school board meeting, some of those options fought back.

Ken Kryder, director of the Career and Technical Center, gave a presentation early in the regular work session, featuring some hard numbers from the CTE program:

r 55 percent of the high school population at Keystone is somehow involved with CTE, including 260 full time CTE students and 264 students who take single or multiple period CTE classes.

r Out of 914 total high school students, 148 are involved in the PCNow program, which serves as a partnership between Pennsylvania College of Technology and Keystone Central, on behalf of the students, who get college credits at no cost.

r Those 148 PCNow students look to enjoy a three-year projected savings of $755,077, across 1,403 credits.

r 2017-18 is the largest year for the program yet, coming in at an estimated 640 credits earned, with $348,800 in savings to Keystone students. Compare this to 2015-16: 299 credits were earned, at $157,573 in savings to students.

Kryder also pointed to continuing growth into the future, as well, citing the upcoming adoption of the PA Future Ready index, which could be here as soon as Fall 2018.

After his presentation, board member Billie Rupert asked Kryder, “if these things are removed, how do you feel the students…will they continue to reach out on their own?”

Kryder took several moments to think through the question, saying “it’s not an easy answer, because there’s so many moving parts and variables.”

For example, “single period electives would be gone, some of the dual enrollment opportunities aren’t offered elsewhere,” he said. “It would really limit the ability of the students to determine what path they want to choose.”

Put another way, Kryder said, “career and technology education in Keystone Central School District would not look anything like it does now. The opportunities, I feel, wouldn’t be there, and the students wouldn’t take advantage because it’s no longer under our control — there’s too many things that limit us,” he said soberly.

Also on the potential chopping block: Angela Harding, who serves as district communications and fundraising coordinator and as liaison with the Keystone Central Foundation, the district’s independent, nonprofit education foundation.

Harding spoke Thursday night in defense of her position, and was further backed up by a coalition of Foundation members led by President Karen Brandt.

“Nothing that myself, this position, or the Foundation has been able to do has been done as an individual, and everything I’ve done has been a partnership,” Harding said.

Harding focused on her role providing positive press to the area newspapers and media, as well as community outreach to try to get kids opportunities to volunteer or otherwise be connected with the students.

One of the proudest moments she mentioned involved a photo of 27 students, who had the opportunity to tour and later gain employment from First Quality. While some work was seasonal pending their college schedule, others received full-time employment as a result of the partnership between Keystone and First Quality, which she helped to forge.

Harding’s view of the district and the community is one of symbiosis: “The success of the community and the school district are contingent upon one another,” she said, while speaking of her attempts to push someone from the district to serve on the operating board of the Clinton County Economic Partnership.

That’s not the only plan Harding has in place for the future, either.

Other upcoming events she has in motion for the district include:

r A career fair on March 14.

r A college and military fair on March 21.

r Organizing Summit on the Mountain with Lock Haven University, which is a new partnership to the district.

r Implement the 3rd annual Foundation fundraiser.

r Kick off a capital campaign.

r Continue to move forward on the creation of the Alumni and Friends Association.

r Facilitate and distribute Spring 2018 mini-grants and special funding to district teachers via competitive grant programs.

r Help to organize the annual awarding of scholarships to graduating seniors to help them further their educations.

The mini-grants were something also touched upon by Brandt in the Foundation’s support of Harding.

“There has been too much focus on cuts, and not enough on new revenues,” Brandt told the board.

Some of these new revenues come in the form of mini-grants raised and given out by the Foundation, which help fund things like student travel to the reading competition, which Christina Onuskanich talked about at the start of the regular meeting. Onuskanich’s teams performed very well at the regional competition.

Additionally, some of the special projects funded via the Foundation have included planting an orchard and a tree farm, developing a hydroponics lab, purchasing maker kits, and more.

The Foundation also gives out scholarships and awards on behalf of donors, expected to rise to $51,000 in 2018, up slightly from 2017’s record $48,000.

Brandt said the Foundation will give the district a one-time contribution of $5,000 for 2018-2019 to help subsidize and preserve liaison’s position, as for now that’s the amount available in unrestricted funds.

Finally, Harding said she had officially informed earlier on Thursday that the Keystone Central Foundation has now been approved as Clinton County’s lone Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.

While it is currently unclear just how much benefit that could bring to the district, all parties acknowledged it creates tremendous potential for increased giving by businesses seeking tax credits to help students.

The EITC program allows businesses to receive a 75 percent to 90 percent credit on their state income tax for contributions to designated program organizations.

“EITC is a game-changer for the district and the Foundation,” Brandt declared.