The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, May. 24, 2022

State supt. gets info on VWHS program

DAVE MOSIER/Van Wertindependent

Ohio’s top educator and a state school board member were in Van Wert Wednesday to hand out a special award and take a look at an innovative school-business career program.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria (left) and State Board of Education member Linda Haycock listen as National Door & Trim owner Tom Turnwald (right) talks about his experience with Van Wert High School’s CEO program. CEO student Nathan Bidlack (in red shirt) also talked about his experiences in the program. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and Ohio Board of Education member Linda Haycock first visited Lincolnview Local Schools, where they first toured the district’s new Community Center and several elementary classrooms, and DeMaria later presented the Momentum Award, given to only 75 of Ohio’s more than 1,000 elementary schools, for high marks on the 2018 State Report Card.

“I’m so pleased to present this certificate to you this morning,” DeMaria said. “It’s clear that you all are committed to learning and getting better all the time.”

Haycock agreed with DeMaria.

“I’m so grateful to be here to say congratulations for all of the work that you have done over the years to make this award possible,” the state school board member said. “It’s just a little piece of paper, but it represents so much hard work and deliberate effort on every one of you’s part.”

The state superintendent spent most of his time in Van Wert speaking with students and business people who are involved in Van Wert High School’s Career Education Opportunity (CEO) program, which partners with local businesses to provide seniors with career mentoring opportunities in a variety of areas.

Since the CEO program is now countywide, that contract began at Lincolnview with Rachel Hertel, a senior at the school who was student teaching in Matt Alessandrini’s fourth-grade class when DeMaria visited.

Hertel said she was very much motivated to be an elementary teacher, noting that teachers had helped her when she was struggling as a young student and she wanted to do something similar for other students.

From Lincolnview, DeMaria and Haycock visited National Door & Trim on Grill Road, where they talked to owner Tom Turnwald, as well as VWHS senior Nathan Bidlack and National Door & Trim employee Heath Troyer, who worked with Bidlack, about their experience with the CEO program.

Kerry Koontz, the VWHS guidance counselor who created the program and administers it, first noted that he has been pleased with participation in the program, both by students and business partners. The program at VWHS has gone from 12 students in 2016-17 — the first year of the program — to 44 of the school’s approximately 100 non-Vantage seniors this year. This year, Crestview and Lincolnview seniors are also part of the program.

Koontz said that students must develop a resume and then interview with companies they are interested in. The companies then select the students that will participate at their site. The program administrator admitted the program isn’t always a positive for students, with some students even being fired from a company, as well as being dropped from the CEO program. Mostly, though, it’s a great opportunity for students to learn what a business does and to understand what is required of them as employees.

The guidance counselor also noted that the program is also good at helping students discover local job opportunities they might be interested in pursuing when they graduate. Of course, it can also work the other way around, with students who think they’re interested in a particular career finding out that it’s not what they really want to do. Koontz said that was also a positive, though, in that it allows students to move on and find something in which they are interested before they’re get too invested in a career they realize is not for them.

“That’s happened a lot as well,” Koontz added.

Turnwald said his biggest concern in participating was trying to find a way to plug students in to the company’s work schedule and make it worth their time and the company’s time.

DeMaria and Haycock then went to Van Wert Health, where they spoke with Paula Stabler, ER director and coordinator of the hospital’s CEO program, and VWHS senior Lawson Blackmore.

Stabler said the biggest hurdle she had to overcome in creating the hospital’s CEO program curriculum was fulfilling HIPAA privacy requirements. Van Wert Health also had to test each participating student for tuberculosis, which was done at hospital expense.

Supt. Paolo DeMaria (second from left) and State Board of Education member Linda Haycock (left) chat with Paula Stabler, ER director at Van Wert Health, and CEO student Lawson Blackmore.

To meet HIPPAA requirements, patients are always asked if they will allow a student to be in the room while they are being treated by physicians and other hospital staff.

Both Bidlack and Blackmore were enthusiastic about the program, and what it has done to help them understand business and provide them with career mentoring and information.

Bidlack said his time at National Door & Trim has literally created a career path for him. Noting that he had originally planned to go to college in another field, Bidlack said that, through the experience and contacts he developed at National Door & Trim has resulted in him being hired as a project manager for a construction firm in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Blackmore, who has taken a lot of science classes while in school, said his classroom experience complemented his work experience by helping him better understand some of the medical procedures he was seeing at the hospital.

DeMaria said after the visits that he was impressed with the CEO program, as well as the commitment of the local businesses to the program.

“I heard about the career education opportunities program here in Van Wert … and I said I wanted to see it firsthand,” the state superintendent said. “It really reflects not only a good learning opportunity for the kids, but strong partnership between business and education, and the business community benefits because more and more students are going to know the kinds of jobs available.

“First and foremost, it a great learning opportunity, because you can sit in a classroom and study anatomy and study all kinds of things, but when you see it happen firsthand and you’re part of it, it just drives the learning home so much more,” DeMaria added. “It sticks with you; it’s not some learning that fades away after you take the final exam.

“In addition, communities like this, they feel deep roots,” the state superintendent noted. “The more (students) know about the job opportunities that are available, the more likely they are to either stay or, when they go off to college, they’ll come back.”

Following their CEO visits, DeMario and Haycock had lunch at Vantage Career Center and spoke to students and staff there, and later visited Franklin Elementary School in Delphos on Wednesday afternoon.

DeMaria said he was especially impressed with what he saw at Vantage.

“There’s nothing quite like seeing kids who are engaged in learning because they’re hands-on and they’re doing applied experiences in an area where they have an interest,” DeMaria said. “You can see it on their faces — they’re happy, they’re poised and confident, and they easily communicate about what they’re doing and what they like. It’s a great group of kids.”

DeMaria also noted he believes career centers are an important part of Ohio’s educational system. 

“Career center graduates have a higher success rate in college than many other students, so they’re being prepared for whatever they do in the future,” DeMaria said. “They have a whole additional set of skills that are great for being successful on a college campus and in a workplace.

“In fact, we’re seeing a lot more high schools add a career-related theme to their high school experience, because they understand if a student really sees the application of English, science, social studies, and science in the things they do, the learning is a lot deeper and they’re much more engaged,” DeMaria added. “They’re much less likely to get in trouble if they love what they’re learning about and they see the connection between what they’re learning and the real world.”

POSTED: 03/28/19 at 8:41 am. FILED UNDER: News