YOUNGSTOWN — Nearly 40 people from three Choffin adult education programs and their supporters attended the Youngstown School Board meeting on Tuesday to defend the programs and make sure they don’t close next year.
Teachers and other employees of these adult education programs entered the meeting under the impression that the programs are in jeopardy in the city’s school district.
CEO Justin Jennings assured that two of the programs – practical nursing and dental assisting – were not at risk of being eliminated. However, the surgical technology program may be moved from the district if it cannot find an associate’s degree program to sponsor due to state accreditation requirements.
The groups waited more than an hour before they could make their case for keeping the programs under the city’s schools Choffin Adult Program, as Jennings met with school board members to discuss what’s going on. going on with the programs.
Paula Oliver, representative of the dental assisting program, noted that it has had great success over the years.
Oliver said school enrollment has declined in recent years due to a combination of the pandemic and the program’s inability to accommodate new applicants, as well as reduced marketing and advertising.
“Choffin has a great program,” she said.
Jennings presented graduation numbers for each of the programs from the 2014-15 school years through the 2021-2022 school years, stating that each of the programs has seen declining enrollment and graduation rates.
The dental assisting program had 28 students in the 2014-2015 school year and 19 graduates. In the 2021-22 school year, there are eight students. The school year is not over, so the number of graduates is not known.
Last year, the program had 16 students and 13 graduates.
Several area dentists have spoken out in favor of keeping the dental assisting program, saying there is no program in the area that has produced graduates who go directly into practice with successful dentists.
Emily Spletzer, acting director of the surgical technology program, said she took the job three years ago. Spletzer acknowledged that the program has had too much transition in its direction in recent years.
Spletzer, a graduate of the program, explained that in a credentialing exam, one of the red flags was that she wasn’t qualified for the position of director because she didn’t have no associate degree.
However, she says, the district knew she didn’t have a degree when she was hired to lead the program.
“I’ll have one in December,” she said.
Spletzer described trying to work with the CEO’s office to do what she could to save the program, but said she was unable to meet with Jennings.
Spletzer said moving the program under Eastern Gateway Community College was not a good idea, due to what she called the school’s poor track record with its medical programs.
The surgical technology program had 21 students in the 2014-2015 school year and 14 graduates. This school year, the program has 17 students. The number of people expected to graduate has not been determined.
Last year, the program had 20 students and 13 graduates.
A May 23 letter from Ronald Kruzel, executive director of the Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting Accreditation Review Board, noted that because there is no formal program director and qualified, the Accreditation Board has ruled that the program is not in substantial compliance with the nationally established accreditation standards.
Jennings emphasized that the program must be able to provide an associate degree or be paired with a degree program, with Choffin programs meeting either of these requirements.
If the program falls under Eastern Gateway Community College, graduates will be eligible for an associate degree. Additionally, under Eastern Gateway’s Gateway Guarantee, graduates will owe nothing for their tuition.
However, those who do not complete or fail the program could face a $10,500 tuition fee, according to information provided by the school district.
School board member Brenda Kimble told Choffin School employees that she used the programs they help lead and supports their pursuit.