Sunday, April 25, 2010

Open East End Panel - part 5 - Where is South Vo Tech's replacement?

A career and technology center has been a long-standing and strong preference for Pittsburgh's students.
Participants in the DeJong community dialogues voiced a strong preference for a career technology center. While the district asserts that a centralized CTE site is “an ineffective delivery model,” the Parkway West Career & Technology Center offers an impressive range of CTE for 600 students from 12 suburban communities at a single center.

Training includes:

auto body repair

automotive technology

business technology


computer technology


culinary arts

digital multimedia technology

drafting & design

electrical construction maintenance

health assistant


information technology


public safety technology

welding technology
In the same way that CAPA is seen as a better delivery model than offering visual arts training in three high schools, theater in three schools, writing in three schools and perhaps a "signature" dance program in one school, a center for CTE is likely to be a better delivery model for career education than scattering programs among schools. The district also asserts that “capital costs exceeding $100 million are projected for such a facility," ignoring the possibility of utilizing a facility that is already well suited for a CTE center, such as Peabody or Westinghouse. More information is needed on the cost of converting an existing building for use as a CTE center.

Regarding Westinghouse, the district observes in its materials that the school is in a “difficult” location. To address this issue, we recommend that a shuttle run frequently between the East Busway and Westinghouse. A model might be the shuttle that runs from the T station to Brashear. With safe transportation, a center devoted to high quality career technology could be expected to attract a diverse student body similar to the student body CAPA and Rogers attracted when they were located in Homewood and Garfield, respectively. And, the CTE center would be just as available to students from across the district as the automotive, HVAC, robotics and cosmetology programs would be under the district's plan. Based on demand the district could also offer culinary arts, health services, information and business technology and other appropriate programs at a second location.

While the district invokes the approval of CTE consultants in making its recommendations, it does not disclose the budgetary restrictions imposed that severely limited these consultants' recommendations. Much of the $38 million mentioned in connection with the proposed CTE overhaul is actually slated for renovation of Oliver High School, which according to DeJong is in need of major renovation. Under the district plan Oliver would offer not just CTE but also early college, credit recovery and reentry programs. (It is not clear why a center for credit recovery at Oliver would be considered a more effective delivery model than a center for career and technical education at Peabody or Westinghouse.) In light of the loss of South Vo Tech, CTE funding should be spent specifically for CTE. If the district is intent on offering a premier summer camp to middle school students and a premier university prep program at Milliones, it should also design a premier CTE program.

Finally, it is problematic that the District is proposing that a midday shuttle of up to 45 minutes would bring students from their home school to CTE programs in other buildings. Most students at the affected schools are not proficient in reading and math, and reducing instruction time by 45 minutes is counterproductive to bringing these students to proficiency. While the district states that most respondents at the community dialogue found a 45-minute trip acceptable, it was not specified at the dialogue that the 45 minute travel time might be in addition to travel time at the beginning and end of the school day.

The District should establish a center for career and technical education at a facility that is already outfitted for CTE programming (i.e. Westinghouse or Peabody High School).

If Westinghouse is chosen as the location for a career tech center, there should be a frequent shuttle run between Westinghouse and the East Busway. The possibility of using the facility as an adult retraining center at nights and on weekends, as well as the possibility of participating in a suburban consortium or serving as host for a regional training center, should also be explored.

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