Choffin leaders defend threatened programs | News, Sports, Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN — Nearly 40 people from three Choffin Adult Education programs and their supporters attended the Youngstown school board meeting Tuesday to defend the programs and make sure they do not close in the next year.

Teachers and other employees within these adult education programs walked into the meeting under the impression that the programs are at risk within the city school district.

CEO Justin Jennings assured that two of the programs — practical nursing and dental assisting — are not at risk for elimination. However, the surgical technology program may be moved from the district if it cannot find an associate degree program to sponsor due to state accreditation requirements.

The groups waited for more than an hour before being able to present their arguments for maintaining the programs under the city schools Choffin Adult Program as Jennings met with school board members to discuss what has been happening with the programs.

Paula Oliver, representing the dental assistant program, noted that it has been very successful over the years.

Oliver said the school’s enrollment has declined in recent years due to a combination of the pandemic and the program’s inability to take in new applicants, as well as reduction of marketing and advertising.

“Choffin has an excellent program,” she said.

Jennings presented graduation numbers for each of the programs from the 2014-15 school years through the 2021-22 school years, stating that each of the programs has seen declines in enrollment and graduation rates.

The dental assistant program had 28 students in the 2014-15 school year and 19 graduate. In the 2021-22 school year, there are eight students. The school year has not ended, so the number of graduates is not known.

Last year, the program had 16 students and 13 graduates.

Several area dentists spoke in favor of maintaining the dental assisting program, saying there is no program in the area that has produced graduates who directly go into practice with dentists successfully.

Emily Spletzer, interim director of the surgical technology program, said she took on the position three years ago. Spletzer acknowledged that the program has in recent years had too much transition in its leadership.

Spletzer, a graduate of the program, explained that under an accreditation review, one of the red flags was that she was not qualified to hold the director position because she does not have an associate’s degree.

However, she said, it was known by the district that she did not have a degree when she was hired to lead the program.

“I will have one in December,” she said.

Spletzer described attempting to work with the CEO’s office to do what she can to save the program, but said she has not been able to meet with Jennings.

Spletzer said moving the program under Eastern Gateway Community College is not a good idea, because of what she called the school’s poor track record with its medical programs.

The surgical technology program had 21 students in the 2014-15 school year and 14 graduates. During 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 accreditation review council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, noted that because there is not a formal, qualified program director, the accreditation council ruled the program is not in substantial compliance with the nationally established accreditation standards.

Jennings emphasized the program must be able to provide an associate degree or be associated with a degree program the Choffin programs does meet either of these requirements.

If the program goes under Eastern Gateway Community College, graduates will be able to earn an associate degree. Also, under Eastern Gateway’s Gateway Guarantee, graduates will not owe any money for their tuition.

However, those who do not complete or fail the program could have tuition of $10,500, according to information provided by the school district.

Brenda Kimble, a school board member, told the Choffin School employees that she has used the programs they are helping to lead and supports their continuation.

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