"We need to address needs in business industry."
That was the message Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel brought to the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology on Monday, and the same message he has taken to local businesses and organizations, in advocating for a "dedicated director at the Warren County Career Center.
Currently, oversight of the WCCC is shared by the director of secondary education and a principal assigned to manage the day-to-day operations of the building.
Why is the director needed?
"We need somebody who can work as a link between the needs of the local industry and the needs of the Career Center," Hufnagel said. Currently the principal "manages the building" but "can't go out and make those relationships. (We) also need to ensure business has an active voice in the future of the career center."
Hufnagel explained that he has been working with the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry and the Community Foundation of Warren County "and trying to secure funding" for the positionWe do have some commitments on that position." He told the committee that the Community Foundation has agreed to donate one dollar for every two dollars donated, up to $25,000 for two years, to support the position, indicating that Whirley "would like to participate" and that he is reaching out to the DeFrees Foundation "to see what they would be willing to do."
He said the position salary will be $75,000 annually. If this arrangement is approved, the district would be on the hook for $25,000 in benefits.
The position would have four primary goals: address the needs of business and industry, provide skilled employable workers, lobby at regional and state levels for technical education and collaborate with post-secondary institutions. "A lot of people think when you go to the Career Center you go into the work force and this isn't always the case," Hufnagel added.
"What are the future needs of the county? What can we do as a career center to meet those needs? As I talk about this with business leaders, I'm asking them to support the program for two to three years. Their biggest concern is that the school district is going to drop it if they can't afford it," Hufnagel said, emphasizing that the individual in the position would need to be able to find alternate streams of revenue. For example, he said that Corry sends students to Erie and Forest Area School District sends students' significant distances for career education as well, noting that tuition arrangements might be able to expand funding at the WCCC.
As for where the funding issues stand, Hufnagel said that he is "being told that we are getting close to our goal." If the board would approve the entire arrangement, the district would immediately look to fill the position. While reiterating that all decisions would need final board approval, Hufnagel was hopeful that some of the "major donors" could assist in the recruitment process.
Once the person is on board, Hufnagel advocated for an advisory panel "that will assist in giving the business community a voice in the operations of the Warren County Career Center.
He expressed optimism that a proposal to create this position could be prepared to present to the board at December's meeting.
In other news, a brief special meeting was held and a medical sabbatical was approved for Diane Martin, the WCSD director of special education. A clerk of the works for the Beaty project was also approved by the board. That individual will be compensated at an hourly rate not to exceed 40 hours per week.