Three trustees of Barton Community College sat down with four public school superintendents Thursday to discuss the college’s partnership with secondary schools in the area.
Joining Barton trustees Paul Maneth, Robert Feldt and John Moshier were Great Bend Unified School District Superintendent Tom Vernon, Ellinwood USD 355 Superintendent Ben Jacobs, Hoisington USD 431 Superintendent Bill Lowry and Lyons USD 405 Superintendent Gary Sechrist.
Dean Elaine Simmons said the college has partnerships with 15 area school districts, including the new Central Plains USD 112 that includes the former Claflin school district. The partnerships differ from district to district, but Barton can offer courses for college credit on high school campuses, courses for dual college and high school credits, and high school classes on the college campus, such as automotive courses for Great Bend High School. Students who complete that program can continue with the college’s Automotive Technology Program.
There are also technical programs, such as Emergency Medical Technician training offered to high school students at their schools.
The school superintendents agreed that budget concerns pose the biggest challenges, and that sharing resources with the college can save money. "I think the community college model has it right," Jacobs said. He described how the partnerships may expand as secondary schools take a new approach to preparing students for "career pathways." In the future, students will graduate with certificates in skills related to jobs in 16 career clusters. For example, a student might graduate from high school with a certificate in welding. Theoretically, that student would be qualified for an entry level job as a welder, or the student could make the transition into a more advanced welding program at Barton.
"This is currently evolving," Jacobs said.
Vernon said 330 juniors and seniors from GBHS are getting credit from both the high school and the college. Parents are also concerned about economic issues, and with dual credits, "they (the students) will have a head start on their college program or their vocational program." For that and other reasons, Vernon said, "we feel blessed that Barton Community College is here."
Lowry noted the college has helped Hoisington USD 431 as well, even assisting with the sale of two valuable paintings owned by the district. USD 431 netted $154,000, which will be used for scholarships.
As for career pathways, the one Lowry sees the greatest potential in is health care. In the future, it will be possible to graduate from high school with a nurse’s aide certificate.
Sechrist said he’d like to see the college focus on niche training programs that could help students train for jobs in their local communities. For Lyons, that niche could be training for careers at correctional facilities.
Barton proposed such a program two years ago, and has just received curriculum approval from the Technical Education Authority, Simmons said. It will come to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval in November.
"Nine of our career technical opportunities are available online," Simmons said, adding, "new career paths are happening every day." The college is also working on a new project to make online education more affordable, she said.
The only action item on Thursday’s agenda was approving minutes and hiring of new personnel. No action was taken, because there were not enough trustees present to form a quorum.