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Friday, July 14th, 2006

Officials still finding fault

By William Kincaid
Coldwater Exempted Village School Superintendent Rich Seas and Fort Recovery Local Schools Superintendent David Riel both want a more systematic method of adding or removing Tri Star programs.
Seas and the Coldwater board of education continue to criticize how Tri Star officials decide whether to keep or remove a program - based on both attendance and post high school placement in related jobs - during this weeks regular board meeting.
They also want to know the decision process of adding new programs, as the local and national economic climate changes.
Seas said the Tri Star advisory council, consisting of appointed, not elected officials, has made many program decisions without the consensual support of the board of education.
For example, at a February board meeting, both Seas and the board of education learned that an E-Commerce program was removed from the Tri Star curriculum - and neither Seas nor the board was notified of the transaction, they said.
Tri Star Director Tim Buschur, who is responsible to continuously appraise and evaluate all career technical programs, told The Daily Standard that there is no official, policy driven method to determine whether a class should be cut or not.
Coldwater board members said it was an eye-opener when they reviewed a 2006 competency assessment summary of the program provided by Tri Star employee Julie Schosker. Schosker originally presented that same report at the June 6 Superintendents meeting.
The board members said they were concerned about the low expectations of some of the following competency tests:
• Ag mechanics: Test available but not required. The instructor chose not to administer the test.
• Construction: The state benchmark score needed to pass was 67 percent, with the Tri Star class averaging 63.49 percent and only 6 of 14 students passed.
• E-Commerce: No test created.
• Graphics: The state benchmark score needed to pass was 61 percent but the Tri Star class average was 40.69 percent and no student passed.
• Engineering Technology (CAD): The state benchmark score needed to pass was 48 percent, with the Tri Star class averaging 63.33 percent. All 16 students passed.
• Machine Trades: The state benchmark score needed to pass was 61 percent, with the Tri Star class averaging 76.67 percent. All 6 students passed
The state, according to Buschur, is inconsistent in its analysis of Ohio career technical classes, as some programs in Tri Star are mandated to test, while others are not.
State tests for some programs are so old that they are no longer applicable, while other courses, such as Med Prep, don't even have a test prepared.
Buschur also said the state has no plans or the necessary finances to update or procure further competency tests for the Tri Star Programs.
Seas and the board members also were concerned about the low scores needed to pass. In addition the job placement summary had many negative results.
For example, board members learned the following from a one-year follow-up to 2005 Tri Star graduates:
• Electronics: No students are attending college in a related major and only one of six students is employed in a related occupation.
• Graphics: No students are attending college in a related major and only one of eight students is employed in a related occupation.
• Construction: - One student is attending college in a related major and only two of 12 students are employed in a related occupation.
Board members were pleased with the machine trade graduates, where all eight students in the survey are employed in a related occupation and with welding graduates, where 10 of the 13 students are employed in a related occupation.
Seas and board members believe such results should be used when deciding whether to drop or continue programs.
Board member Jerry Meyer asked if the results should "drive some of the decisions on curriculum," to which Seas said he "hopes so."
"Let's look and see what our student needs are and build around (them) based on national measures," Riel said. "I would want to continue to look at what they need to be successful. If ( the course is) carpentry, how many of our kids are getting jobs?"
"In the past there (has been) no set policy," Buschur told the Daily Standard.
But Tri Star officials are trying to establish guidelines based on a three- to five-year average, based on both attendance and success, of each program, he said.

COLDWATER - School Superintendent Rich Seas worries that Coldwater is the only school actively concerned about the accountability and efficiency of the Tri Star program.
Seas said Coldwater has been the "lone ranger" in attempting to improve Tri Star. "We're not against Tri Star," he said, "we just want it to be a better program."
Seas and the coldwater board of education members said they were pleased with Tri Star Director Tim Buschur's recent progress but believe the program would benefit from much more direction and input from participating schools.
"The discussion has been limited at best," Seas said about the other school districts involved in Tri Star and their commitment to improving Tri Star's accountability.
Tri Star's 20-year agreement of operation ends soon and a new five-year agreement will be implemented in September. Coldwater is the only school that has not signed the contract yet.
"We're planning (the signing on) for next meeting (July 25)," Seas said about approving the agreement. "There's no reason we're not going to sign."
Even if Coldwater didn't sign the agreement, it would still be in place because six of the nine participating schools have already approved it. Coldwater, in addition to Celina and St. Marys, houses Tri Star facilities within its schools.
Since the February meeting, Seas said Buschur has made great strides in improving communication between the nine participating schools. The superintendents, according to Seas, have met three times to discuss Tri Star's future.
But Seas and board members are still concerned about various unresolved issues such as no uniform discipline policy, no clear process of adding and deleting programs (see related story); and a different standard for Tri Star teachers compared to regular teachers.
Because there are different programs housed at Coldwater, Celina and St. Marys, students must adhere to the rules and conduct of the Tri Star school they attend, regardless of their home school. In other words, there is no uniform set of rules for all Tri Star schools.
And Seas thinks this is an unfair policy that could present legal problems, as students may be disciplined more or less severe for the same offense, depending on what school they're in.
"That's the kind of stuff we want eliminated," Seas told board members. "There hasn't been a good discussion on discipline."
Also, Seas said school superintendents and boards of education many times are not aware of significant changes to the program. Seas added that participating Tri Star schools have little insight or control of the program and are simply collectively billed in the fall after the completion of the school year.
"We should make sure schools know what they're paying for," Seas said.
What upsets Seas and board members the most about Tri-Star is the different guidelines for Tri Star teachers, which Seas believes is a direct violation of contract.
According to Coldwater's contract, which encompasses both sets of educators, all full-time employee teachers must work seven hours a day. But Coldwater Tri Star teachers Dennis Riethman and Jack Mescher work six hours and 15 minutes - including both
t heir class and prep time.
Seas said Tri Star teachers hours are based on how long it takes for students around the area to travel to Coldwater and participate in class. Seas argues it is both unfair and inconsistent, in addition to probably being a violation of teacher contracts.
"We're going to be team players," Seas predicted Thursday about efforts to improve Tri Star. But he said, "We're not going to back away."
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