By Kristen Miller
DASSEL-COKATO, MN Staff members from the career and technical education team identified concerns and possible ways to improve educational opportunities for DC students during the Jan. 22 Dassel-Cokato School Board meeting.
Members of the team include Eric Sawatzke, agriculture department; Derek Levno, Steve Ellis, and Randy Johnson, with the industrial technology department; Neil Schlagel, business; and Krysten Dane, family and consumer sciences.
Outdated equipment and space were common themes in the team’s presentation.
The lack of machines, for example in Levno’s welding class, results in students waiting in line. “We don’t get to be as efficient with our time,” Levno told the board. It can also be a safety hazard to have limited work spaces, he noted.
Ellis spoke on the school’s outdated equipment, much of which is more than 35 years old.
To best prepare students for skilled jobs out of high school or to be among the top students in a post-secondary program, equipment should meet industry standards, Ellis noted.
Part of the issue is that equipment used in career and technical education is much more expensive than curriculum in other classes.
Space was a concern Sawatzke addressed, particularly when it comes to teaching his small engines class.
To better equip students with knowledge in the area, he said students should be working on larger equipment, such as an ATV or small tractor, rather than a push lawn mower. Space has been a hindrance, however. He would also like to see automotives being taught.
Noise was also a factor, particularly for the agriculture room, which is adjacent to the wood shop.
In that regard, Sawatzke said it could be as simple as looking at a different classroom. He noted that with the new laptops in classrooms, there are rooms no longer used as computer labs.
The middle school industrial technology room also faces similar issues, particularly space.
“With the large number of students using this space at any given time, our biggest challenge is having enough room to work, store projects and add additional equipment,” Johnson said, explaining that nearly all of the 680 students are enrolled in a tech class at some point in the year.
Additional space would also make it possible to consider adding modern technology related equipment and machines, now and in the future, Johnson explained. “Expanding and improving these type of experiences at the middle school level help cultivate interest as students move to the high school and consider the fascinating opportunities in tech education,” he said.
In regard to the family and consumer science program, Dane said she would like to see two rooms rather than the current one room, in order to separate foods class from sewing.
Currently, there are up to eight classes being taught in one room.
Poor ventilation when using the ovens is also an issue, Dane expressed.
Schlagel identified ways in which he would like to expand learning opportunities in the business department.
He would like to expand the current Charger Closet store to include more products, and move to a location that would be more accessible to the public. Doing so would make the learning experience more “realistic” for students, he said.
The next steps
Staff from the career and technical education (CTE) department will form a committee made up of administration, business and industry leaders, parents, students, and a board member. Bill Aho volunteered to serve as the board liaison.
With many of the CTE classes meeting students’ hobbies and interests, “we need to make sure we’re meeting the community’s career needs,” according to Sawatzke.
Floral design, for instance, is a fun class to take “but the content may not lead to the most in-demand careers in the community,” said Sawatzke, adding “We may be missing courses all together.”
The first step for the group will be to identify the needs and find ways to improve within the current budget.
Next, Sawatzke explained, will be to see what else “is truly a need in the eyes of the community and district, and come up with a revenue source.”
The goal is to develop a proposal for the board to consider by the May meeting.
Committee meeting set for Feb. 16
Anyone from the community interested in exploring ways to improve the current career and technical development program is welcome to the first committee meeting set for Monday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the community room of the DC Performing Arts Center complex.
For more information, contact DCHS Principal Dean Jennissen at (320) 268-4100 ext. 1802.