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OTTAWA — Ottawa Township High School officials are firing back against social media discussion claiming the district had eliminated all of its career and technical education curriculum.
OTHS Superintendent Matt Winchester and board chairman Tim Creedon released a joint statement to the NewsTribune meant to highlight the 54 courses outside of the core curriculum of English, math, science, social science and physical education that exist at the high school.
“Claims stating that Ottawa Township High School has eliminated all of its CTE (career and technical education) courses are simply not true,” Winchester stated. “While a projected $3.5 million deficit has forced (OTHS) to make a reduction in one vocational course, an extensive career and technical education (CTE) curriculum continues to exist for the 2014-2015 school year.”
The district has come under scrutiny for the board’s March 17 decision to layoff building trades instructor Dave Keely and thereby ending the building trades program in an effort to save money. The district is currently operating with a $3.5 million deficit budget and is quickly using up its reserve savings, forcing the administration and board to look for ways to cut costs and raise revenue.
In response, hundreds of students staged a non-violent protest by leaving classes on March 18 and holding signs in support of the building trades program and Keely. The administration responded by doling out three-day suspensions and denying extracurricular activities to those students who did not go back to class.
Additionally, the board’s decision and subsequent student protest has drawn national attention after former “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe created a movie clip and has done television interviews supporting the school’s building trades program and commending the student protests.
Winchester said the school still offers students a variety of opportunities to explore and learn about construction trades and industrial manufacturing. Those courses include learning about architecture, engineering and design, computer aided drafting, measuring, construction, and wood working. The district also has a computer aided drafting and design curriculum and several courses in auto mechanics.
Lastly, there are an additional 44 elective courses in six different career fields such as family and consumer science, health occupations, agriculture, business, art and cooperating education.
“The financial environment for schools in the state of Illinois is bleak,” Winchester stated. “Schools continue to face difficult decisions in regards to maintaining a comprehensive curriculum. Despite this challenge…the board of education and administration will continue to focus on educating students in a safe, positive, challenging environment which promotes responsible citizenship and active lifelong learning.”