Cuts to tech programs worry parents at Mars

October 15, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Mars Area School District leaders heard from parents in a virtual meeting Tuesday night regarding cuts made to instructional programming in the area of technology education.

Parent Jeff Maple cited recent decisions to reduce technology education positions at the high school level. Cutting two key instructional positions can have a lasting negative effect on curriculum overall, according to Maple.

“I come from education,” Maple said. “These classes, I feel, are a must in the high school level.”

Maple said, specifically, technology education is imperative for pre-engineering fields. He indicated he is concerned his son, who is entering high school, won't have access to higher level tech-ed programming.

“I'm a little disappointed,” Maple said.

Maple said while he understands the district is facing tough financial decisions, he wants a better solution than cutting back on personnel or instruction. Shawn Scott, another district resident, said he agreed with Maple.

“We have seen this pattern over and over again,” Scott said.

Scott said he finds the district's move to reduce instructional staff — particularly in technology-based courses — “absurd.”

“All our competitive high schools in the area are stressing STEM education,” Scott said.

Scott said the district must focus on having the appropriate educational staff available to students as they prepare for college or careers. He encouraged the board to focus on recuperating lost positions as the district moves into the future.

“Once they're gone, they usually don't come back,” Scott said.

Christine Valenta, a board member, said she agreed with Scott and Maple's assessments of tech-ed. She said she hopes Superintendent Mark Gross will be able to assess how high school tech-ed programs can be enhanced.

“We need to be literate in technology moving forward,” said Valenta, whose daughter is an engineer. “I would hope that someone is taking on this initiative.”

Joseph Graff, a middle school teacher, reminded the board it has been 105 days since the most current professional contract expired. Despite the expiration, Graff said district faculty and staff have been working especially hard this year to protect students during the pandemic.

“It's been a new, different and exciting year,” Graff said.

The board is meeting with the education association and support professionals this week regarding contracts, according to Graff. Gross praised Graff and acknowledged efforts district employees have been making during the pandemic.

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Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal