School Board Hears Report on Skills Center

School Board Hears Report on Skills Center
Posted on 05/11/2017
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Port Angeles, Wash. – Superintendent of Port Angeles Schools Marc Jackson, representing the administrative council of the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center, presented a report Thursday, May 11 intended to “share, inform and appraise” the Port Angeles School District Board of Directors of the challenges faced by the Skills Center.

Dr. Jackson was accompanied by Skills Center council members, Sequim School District Superintendent Gary Neal and Crescent School District David Bingham, who updated the Board of Directors with their school district’s perspective.  Superintendents from Quillayute Valley Schools and Cape Flattery School District, Diana Reaume and Michelle Parkin respectively, were not in attendance and provided written statements for the Port Angeles Directors’ view.

Jackson shared some brief facts about the Skills Center: “We know it’s operating at a loss and has been for quite some time.  The Skills Center has not been able to make changes required for a 150 FTE [full time equivalent] enrollment, and projected enrollment has fallen short. Knowing that enrollment drives funding has led the administrative council to seek help from OSPI since last summer in hopes we could improve things. Needless to say, progress has been difficult.”

“We would like you to know and understand the present problems we are having in making this Skill Center run effectively and efficiently,” Jackson said.

David Knechtel, Port Angeles School District director of finance and operations, shared a financial perspective with the Directors, highlighting Skills Center income and expenses from 2009 through the current year. 

A deficit is shown for each year since 2009 with the exception of the 2011-12 school year which showed income of $56,162.  The 2009-10 deficit was $214,928; the next three years showed improvements but still reflected deficits of $54,387 in 2010-11 and $12,951 in 2012-13. However in the 2013-14 school year the deficit increased to $452,561 and has shown limited improvement since then.  The deficit for the current school year is expected to near $390,000.

The Port Angeles School District has been covering the loss. “Precedence has shown we have not billed the other school districts,” Jackson said.

On Jackson’s arrival to Port Angeles in 2014, the Skills Center’s deficit was $452,561.

Neal gave a historical perspective by the State to help students become career ready. Core 24 has been talked about for years and it is now a requirement for the class of 2021.  Rather than the current 22.5 credits to graduate, students will need 24 credits, increasing requirements in academics subjects. Additionally, the three block credit required since 2010 makes it even more difficult for students to attend classes at the Skills Center. Increasing academic requirements have hindered students’ access to electives.

“Certain things have increased as to what the requirements are and CTE is not one of them,” Neal explained. “Career technical education creates opportunities for kids.  At this point, how are we going to fund something that is not being supported politically on both sides of the aisle?  I don’t know how we’re going to get our kids over there without jeopardizing their opportunity to graduate. This problem is bigger than us. The policy is not matching up.”

Bingham talked about some of the challenges for small schools. “Frankly, we have more kids who aren’t driving, where they have to be at the Skills Center for three hours, then return to Crescent to figure out how to fill out the rest of their schedule.” 

“One of the things we also face,” Bingham added, “ if you look at the contract and how many students each school is supposed to contribute to that need, is we just we can’t do that because of all the restrictions.  We don’t have enough kids available to meet some of those proportional requirements specific to Crescent School District.  I have some real concerns about the consequences to Crescent School District if we continue to run in the red. I can’t recommend to my board to continue the potential liability.”

Reaume and Quillayute Valley School District Board Chairman Bill Rohde, who have been with the Skills Center from the start, commented on Skills Center enrollment issues in a letter read by Bingham: “Today, the enrollment at Forks High School has declined to 285 students [420 students at commencement of the Skills Center] of which approximately 200 students could potentially participate in programs.  However, there are many barriers for our students.  The geographical location (or travel for our students) has always been the number one barrier for our students to participate in skills center programs housed in Port Angeles.  A second barrier has been scheduling and credit availability of our students to enroll in a course …. To be fiscally responsible, we believe that we will not be able to continue our partnership unless some of the barriers are removed.  We simply do not have enough students who can participate in the programs to fill our percentage of enrollment.  It is not feasible.”

“Our biggest topic of discussion at the NOPSC Executive Council meetings over the last ten years has centered around how we can increase the Fulltime Equivalent students (FTE) in each program,” Reaume and Rohde continued.  “About five years ago, we were able to reach 125 FTE, as required by OSPI.  Today, we are barely reaching 70 FTE.  At this time, we are interested in the process of dissolving of the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center.”

Parkin also sent a letter to Jackson, identifying similar challenges prohibiting Cape Flattery School District students’ participation in Skills Center classes, and stating, “Providing adequate time for travel, a student would be required to commute over three hours per day to attend class. This is a demanding request for students who have an academic requirement to complete 24 credits in order to graduate from high school. In addition, over 60% of our current student population are involved in extra-curricular activities that consume their before and after school times. Lastly, transportation costs to and from the skills center is not a cost our families or district can absorb.”

“They [other School Districts] are noticing us they’re pulling out,” Jackson said.  “That’s a reality.”

A single district can operate a Skills Center, but according to WAC 392-600-010(6), a single school district must have a student population of 12,000 to do so.  Port Angeles School District falls considerably short of this number.

The Board of Directors directed Jackson to bring back a plan to request funds from the other Skills Center School Districts per contracts and a plan to make up for existing Skills Center programs.

The NOSPC represents a regional partnership, governed by the administrative council and an interdistrict cooperative agreement, between five schools districts - Port Angeles, Sequim, Cape Flattery, Crescent, Quillayute – and Peninsula College. Port Angeles School District serves as the host school district and fiscal manager.  The Skills Center building is owned by Port Angeles School District and Peninsula College.

For additional assistance, contact:

Tina Smith-O’Hara
Communications and Community Relations Coordinator
Port Angeles School District