The Greene County Commission is set to consider a resolution Monday that could lead to the relocation of vocational education in the county school system from the Greene Technology Center to one or more of the system’s four high schools.
Prior to this meeting, leaders from schools in the city of Greeneville and the Technology Center itself highlighted the benefits they see in the current way of delivering vocational education to students in both districts.
Greeneville City Schools Superintendent Steve Starnes called the Greene Technology Center “a tremendous asset to our community.”
“He’s been a statewide model for over 48 years. GTC staff do an outstanding job of preparing students for post-secondary education or a career in their chosen field,” Starnes said. “Through our partnership with GTC, students have access to 12 high-quality programs equipped with industry-standard equipment and technology. The number and quality of these offerings would be nearly impossible to replicate in individual secondary schools due to space constraints and equipment expense.
The resolution to study the transfer of GTC programs to individual schools was presented by Commissioner Teddy Lawing earlier this month, first to the Greene County Education Committee and then to the Budget and Finance Committee. Both committees approved it, sending it to the commission, which will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Greene County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St. to consider it.
However, the roots of the resolution go back to October, when the Joint Board of Education, which includes members from both local school boards and meets quarterly to discuss and oversee the technology center, discussed but could not reach agreement on a new joint plan of operation.
The center has operated successfully without a formal agreement since it opened in 1974, but an agreement is now needed for oversight of federal grants, Principal Randy Wells told board members at the time.
The distribution of powers, including with regard to the hiring of future directors, as well as the length of the contract to which each district would be bound, were among the details on which the two councils disagreed, and the two boards voting as separate entities, the issue was deadlocked.
Wells, whose hire as principal in 2017 Greene County Schools Superintendent David McLain said he was involved jointly with the former City of Greeneville Schools Superintendent, intends to retire after more than 30 years in total with GTC at the end of the current school year.
Currently, the Greene County School Board provides 60% of local funding and owns two-thirds of the center’s facilities, but the Greeneville City School Board serves as the fiscal agent and has almost all authority in related decision-making. to staffing. The hiring and payroll of the center’s employees is financed by the budget of the city’s school system. The City of Greeneville owns the remaining third of the facilities.
Wells said there were 261 students enrolled in the technology center’s 12 course options this semester. This number includes 143 students from the four Greene County high schools, 116 from Greeneville High School, and two students from private schools.
“Before the pandemic, we averaged almost 100 more students, and I think in a year or so the numbers will be back to pre-pandemic levels or higher,” Wells said. “We offer lessons to all students in grades 9 through 12 at no cost to the student or family. There are no pre-requisite courses before attending GTC. We accept first-semester freshmen as well as final-semester seniors, and all industry certification exams are covered by federal funding.
Scheduling and transportation were among the issues discussed in the county commission’s education and budget and finance committees.
McLain said the state has increased the number of required credit courses students must take in high school, which, given the time it takes to travel across the county to the GTC, means some students, especially the elderly, perhaps do not have time to go to the center.
Wells acknowledged that scheduling presents a barrier for many students, but he said center staff aim to work with students to arrange schedules so they can take their desired professional course or CTE at GTC.
“If students maintain passing grades in all of their required courses, they have the option of attending multiple semesters at GTC,” Wells said. “We will work with any student to make it easier to plan a lesson with us, and we are always ready to work with any school to meet each school’s needs.”
Lawing and other commissioners and district leaders also pointed to students’ reluctance to leave friends in their home high schools, as well as a lingering negative stigma they reported among students.
Wells said GTC is also working to better market course offerings for high school students, and Starnes said the system has seen success in this area.
“The number of students at Greeneville High School has continued to grow over the past few years as there has been a concerted effort to promote the value of a technical education to students,” Starnes said. “For example, students who want to become engineers and attend a four-year college after high school can gain practical knowledge and skills by taking machine tool, welding, or electrical courses at GTC, and students who aspire to enter the labor market or continue their studies. education at a college of applied technology or community college have the ability to learn industry-standard skills, earn industry certifications, and earn post-secondary credits through dual-enrollment courses .
Dual enrollment is currently available through Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Morristown, which uses GTC as its Greene County satellite campus for seven of the 12 course options at GTC, with an eighth opportunity in the new CVC program slated to begin. in autumn. .
State budget documents include funds for a larger TCAT campus on the former Greene Valley Developmental Center campus, and Greene County schools leaders have said they will seek to continue offering dual enrollment through TCAT wherever TCAT and local vocational education options are locally based.
Wells said TCAT’s proposed investment at the grassroots level is tied to the success of the GTC in its current form.
“We consistently have a very high rate of students successfully completing dual enrollment with TCAT and dual credit courses at the community college level. Thirty percent of all students currently enrolled at TCAT Morristown are from Greene County,” Wells said. “Our relationship with TCAT Morristown has resulted in offering classes here in Greeneville during the day and evening, and as a result of this partnership, the Governor has offered to build a $30 million facility here.”
Wells also shared that GTC students performed well last week in the Tennessee SkillsUSA competition, which pitted CTE students from across the state in competition with each other. He said GTC students won first place in four areas and second place in three.
“Our hope is to continue to provide the best possible CTE program for students in Greeneville and Greene County. We strive to be the best in the state and set the standard for others to follow,” Wells said. “At a meeting last week with our teachers, it was said that what we need to do is keep being awesome, and that’s really our mission.”
Wells said he viewed the facility as a bragging point for the community.
“Regularly, systems from across the state and region visit our facilities,” he said. “It’s a source of pride for Greene County. Our facilities are often highlighted when recruiting to the industry, and we also play a role in industry training. My wish is that the partnership will continue and allow GTC to offer excellent career opportunities to students.
Greeneville City School Board President Cindy Luttrell echoed those sentiments, saying the technology center “has been a gem in our community for several years, especially in opening up a prosperous future for students.”
“Staff and management have adjusted their offerings over the years as times have changed and new vocations have developed. It’s hard to realize the impact on students, employees, operations, and even the community right now. We will continue to partner with the Greene County School Board for the benefit of all students,” Luttrell said.
Starnes said he hopes this partnership continues.
“Greeneville City Schools appreciates the opportunities provided to GTC students through our partnership with Greene County Schools and wishes to continue the tradition of excellence and opportunity this partnership provides for students in both systems,” did he declare.
Contacted this week, McLain said he would not comment on the resolution until the Commission votes on Monday.
He said at the education committee meeting, however, that if the resolution passes, the county school board will need to convene a workshop meeting to discuss achieving the direction to explore and formulate a possible plan for delivery to the school of courses currently offered at CGV.