New graduation policies could affect Area 31

Career Center puts Wayne Township ahead of the game

Anna Eggers, Staff Writer

All of the recent changes to the state’s high school graduation policies will have extreme effects on future students, teachers, and administrative school life.

For Wayne Township, the Area 31 Career Center helps students achieve a lot of the goals that will be needed or wished to be accomplished with these new requirements. The motivation behind these decisions may not seem as obvious to us with our already great options at Ben Davis, but there are legitimate reasons the state board moved forward with this plan despite it being passed quickly and without many details.

“The greatest motivation is the manufacturers and industry people feel like we don’t have a lot of skilled workers coming out of high school,” Wayne Township superintendent Dr. Jeff Butts said. “They feel like we have directed them off to college, and sometimes they don’t finish and so there’s a segment of our population that could be better trained to go into a high wage and trained job.”

Butts believes that is a big motivating factor behind the new policies. But there are other concerns.

“Colleges and universities have also said students have to be in remedial course at much too high a rate, so we need to increase the rigor to be able to better prepare our students. So by making a better-skilled workforce, the belief is there will be more business in Indiana to increase our economy,” Dr. Butts said.

Our Area 31 Career Center has been a major addition to aid our students towards a skilled job as soon as they finish high school. Many teachers and students pride it as one of the best experiences they’ve had at school. However, a disastrous revision may have an immediate effect our Career Center.

“In the same meeting, after they passed these graduation requirement changes, they also passed a cut to programs like our Area 31 in half. So they’re telling us they want to help students be ready for skilled work once they graduate, but they’re cutting our funding for it,” Butts said. “One of the things the government office is looking at is to make Career Centers partnered with Vincennes and Ivy Tech. So whether they’re planning to shut down the high school career ready centers, or just supplement what we have here, we don’t know. But there’s great concern by Career Technical Centers that we fear our students won’t be able to operate like we do and they would be forced over to those new centers with Vincennes and Ivy Tech.”

Such a large cut is a terrifying thought for our school, which has become dependent on the options that it helped provide us. This decision by the state board definitely has plenty of positive ways it could affect future generations, but it also has lots of consequences that Wayne Township will have to rush to find what needs to be done.

“There will be a great deal of work to be able to get this in place for the class of 2023,” Dr. Butts said. “Counselors and administrators are getting together this month to find out what we think we need answers to and what we need to change to get this ready. I’ll be working with the state board of education to flesh out answers so we can know more.”

Butts has his own ideas of what needs to happen. “I think the biggest thing will be a tracking system to make sure we have everything met so we don’t have students go into senior year with a significant gap that prevents their graduation,” he said. “There will also be an increase in cost for assessments, like College board with SATs, but we’ll also have to add people to coordinate these pathways to counsel and track.

“Another costly effect is we may have to make additions to secretarial staff, and counseling staff,” Dr. Butts said.

Wayne Township has already dealt with budget cuts in the past, having to get rid of their offering of the International Baccalaureate to save money. What with the additional cuts to Area 31, the added costly effects of this graduation decision may hurt the financial security of our school in ways we are unable to understand. What we really need is just more details to know exactly how this decision will affect us.

“If I try to remain positive, I believe we can provide students with more options when they graduate to do whatever they want to do,” Dr. Butts said. “When the graduates of 2023 walk across the stage, they’ll really have those options to go into a high skilled job or go to a university.” Butts also urges the state board to slow down.

“I would’ve hoped all the answers would’ve been ready today, and I wish the state board would’ve figured everything out before they decided, but the state board usually accepts a conceptual idea and then comes back for the detail,” he said. “It’s a lot different from our school board where I would have to have all the details before I could come to them with a new plan.

“I’m hoping that by next spring or summer that we should be able to have a pretty good idea of all the details. I don’t think we’ll know the fiscal impact until 2019 during the next session,” Dr. Butts said.

We don’t know yet everything that will happen due to these changes. However, if you have little siblings or cousins that you know are going to graduate in 2023 or later, start talking with them now about how these changes will affect them. Keeping a strong mindset of graduating in our students will only help them as we learn how else these changes will affect them. Even in classes that will be unaffected, being sure to meet all of our requirements should be one of the biggest goals we try to reach.

Dr. Butts took a slightly more worrisome outlook about these graduation requirements, but in the end, he trusts Wayne.

“I have great discomfort about this,” he said. “We were able to rally over 80 individuals to speak at the state board meeting, and they received over 322 emails expressing concern and questions. So I think rightly so there’s a great deal of concern because there are too many unknowns for us to be comfortable yet. But I think we’ll get there.

“That’s one of the great things about Wayne Township is we also figure it out. And we’ll figure it out in a way that’ll make sure our scholars are very successful by the time they graduate.”