PRINGLE — Citing steadily rising scores on standardized skills tests, improved programs for an unusually large special-education enrollment and significant upgrades in classroom technology, administrators at West Side Career and Technology Center told members of the education committee of the larger Joint Operating Committee of plans to build on those successes in coming months.
Interim Administrative Director Rob Mauro, who was appointed after the abrupt resignation of Nancy Tkatch in February, said he asked for the meeting to discuss the direction of the center during his limited tenure. The JOC, which oversees the school, is conducting a search for Tkatch’s replacement.
After her resignation, she was charged with misuse of a school credit card. Her arraignment is scheduled for June 6. In citing the improvements in recent years, Mauro credited changes implemented by Tkatch and Principal Richard Rava prior to his arrival.
Rava provided data showing the percentage of students achieving Pennsylvania Skills Certificates through the testing program of the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute has risen, from 53 percent in 2008-09 to 67 percent in 2012-3, with a five-year high of 73 percent in 2010-11.
Rava also pointed to increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient or better in state math and reading test — West Side has consistently posted the lowest scores in those tests among Luzerne County high schools. In the same five-year span, the percentage of students scoring proficient in reading rose from 24.8 to 39.5, while the percent in math rose from 10.6 to 17.9.
Rava and Mauro credited a change in how special-education students are taught, using “clusters” of related programs, such as auto detailing and auto body repair. Each cluster has an assigned special-education teacher who stays with the same students year after year, Rava said.
Mauro also noted the school has been working to broaden training options for special-education students. For example, he said, some may never be able to handle complex auto repairs, but could get jobs doing car detailing or more structured tasks such as oil changes. Such options are important because the school has much higher special-education enrollment — 40 percent — than most career and technology schools in the state, Mauro said.
The school has also purchased computers students can use in classes, and will be quadrupling bandwidth capability this fall to make those computers work more quickly, Mauro said.
Mauro said he will issue a fuller report to the entire JOC later, and that administration hopes to make additional changes at little cost to the school, tweaking or expanding programs to better fit the job market in the region. “Maybe we can add some new programs, things we can do that will not break the bank,” he said.