We’ve been working on the district budget newsletter that includes information about Proposition #3, a capital project to transform the District Office building into a P-TECH center. P-TECH stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School. Our BOCES, Erie 2, in partnership with Alfred State, planned to open a center for the school districts in the northern end of our 27 school districts and we are delighted to partner with them.
The newsletter has a formal Q&A and lots of information about the details of the project. Following is a more informal Q&A to address some of the questions I’ve been hearing in our community. Please note that all of the answers below are only valid if the SGI community passes Proposition #3 on May 15, 2018.
Q1. Why do we need to build a new school building for this program, when we have so many empty classrooms in the high school?
This is a full school–grades 9-12, plus 1-2 years for the Alfred State Associates degree. It’s not like the CTE programs we know well–students will receive their entire education in a projects based environment and neither SHS nor any of our other buildings have that kind of open space.
The program will open in SHS in September, 2018. But remember that will just be the first year, the 9th grade cohort. Right now that enrollment is at 21 students from all of our surrounding districts and they will need two-three classrooms at SHS with one office for their principal. In September, 2019, they will need four-six classrooms with one office. This affords us the time to transform the district office into the new P-TECH center through the capital project, planning to open the center in September, 2020.
There aren’t a lot of empty classrooms at SHS either. I suspect some teachers won’t be happy about any disruption to the spaces they call their own. I also know that a program that benefits students–some of these students might not otherwise graduate or go to college at all–trumps that discomfort. And it’s only for one-two years. I shared a classroom, two teacher desks at the front of the room, for the entire ten years I was a teacher. I know our teachers will consider the greater good and be good sports for a year or two of inconvenience. I also know that SHS Principal Bialasik is working hard to minimize any disruption.
Q2. Will this take students away from our high school electives and lead to a reduction in teachers at SHS?
No. SGI is committing to send only 3-5 students per year to this program. This in fact will be a great way for our technology teachers to collaborate with teachers in a center that’s focused on electrical maintenance and computer information systems—a project based environment. The new center will be SGI owned, yet leased to Erie 2 BOCES at an annual rate that covers the local taxpayer share. This will be guaranteed in our long term lease agreement with Erie 2 BOCES.
That’s another piece to consider. When BOCES does a project that incurs leasing or capital costs, those costs are shared by the 27 component districts, of which SGI is one. IF this P-TECH center were built in another component district, we would still share in the cost through the capital portion of our BOCES budget. We share in the cost of the Dunkirk P-TECH center now, with zero students traveling to Dunkirk. If we share in the cost anyway, why wouldn’t we want to have the center right here on Newman Street?
Q3. How will students be selected?
The SMS staff, including counselors, principal, and technology teachers worked together to first visit the Dunkirk P-TECH center and second to talk with families of students who show an affinity for STEM and for whom they believe this pathway might be beneficial. We had an informational night for families of 8th grade students, with several families in attendance.
I’ve heard the P-TECH student described as someone who you know is smart, but doesn’t necessarily get great grades. Someone who loves project based work and a different way of looking at things. Often, this is a student who we might worry won’t otherwise graduate. For the 2018-19 school year, we have four students enrolled with a fifth student considering it. We did not have to turn away any student with interest. Check out this video to better understand the program.
Q4. How will it be staffed? Will it be local people?
As a BOCES program, the hiring decisions will be made by BOCES. As always, including for SGI positions, the best candidates will be hired. If they’re also district residents, that’s a great bonus.
Q5. Who will determine if it can be used by the public?
Just like all of our other district facilities, there’s a facilities use request form that needs to be completed and we do our best to accommodate those requests. As with every other aspect of this P-TECH project, this is a partnership with Erie 2 BOCES and Alfred State. Will we open up the electrical labs to anyone who wants to fill out a facilities use form? Unlikely given the equipment within but then we don’t sign out our Technology labs at SMS or SHS to anyone who fills out a request either.
We’ve opened up our facilities significantly since my arrival–to our staff and our community. In keeping with that idea, we will certainly consider and accommodate any requests that make sense.
Please know that the gym/cafeteria spaces planned in the project are NOT full size, they are multi-purpose spaces used for the full education of the students within the program. As with any project, we had to scale it so that the local share/portion being paid in the lease with BOCES was affordable and the state aid on the project maximized. These are likely spaces we will be able to open up to the community, unlike the electrical labs.
Q6. A community resident spoke at a BOE meeting and asked if “this is more of the rich get richer”.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. This program helps some of our neediest families.
Initially I had doubts about sending students to P-TECH. I thought, “why should we pay for a student to attend a program like this?” Then I learned that the cost for a P-TECH student is actually less than the cost we pay to educate an SGI student AND we will receive BOCES aid back on the tuition. Our state and federal taxes also subsidize countless college students every year.
Every student at SGI is our responsibility. Some need a different path to success. I’m proud to be able to offer that pathway right here on Newman Street, if the SGI taxpayers pass the Proposition #3, capital project on May 15, 2018.
Please know that you can always reach me at 592-3230 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or stop by our offices at 307 Newman Street! I’m also pleased to accept any invitations to speak at a community event.