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JACKSON TWP. -- The separation between high school and college continues to blur as more Stark County students are starting college classes while in high school.
Soon, some of the physical barriers that divide primary and secondary education from higher education also will be eliminated.
The Stark County Educational Service Center, which oversees services for roughly 70,000 students from preschool to 12th grade in Stark, Summit, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties, will be moving its offices to Stark State College's main campus. While most students and parents likely won't notice the move, it will bring teachers, administrators and superintendents to the college campus for training and other countywide meetings.
During a press conference Thursday with local and state education leaders, Stark County ESC Superintendent Joe Chaddock and Stark State President Para Jones said the move crystallizes a longtime partnership the two entities have shared through dual enrollment programs, which allow students to take classes where they can earn both high school and college credit.
Learn to Earn
Stark County high school students soon will be able to earn the credentials they need to obtain entry-level jobs in four high-demand careers while simultaneously earning the credits they need to graduate high school.
Stark State President Para Jones on Thursday unveiled the college's Learn to Earn initiative, which she said creates another option for students to complete high school that will put them on path to earn industry-recognized certificates, associate degrees and other credentials for jobs in computer technology, automotive maintenance and repair, welding and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.
Jones said the Ohio Department of Education recently endorsed the four Learn to Earn certificate programs, which means that students graduating in 2018 who enroll in the programs also will earn points toward high school graduation. She said pilot programs will be launched in several Stark County high schools and in Akron Public Schools.
Stark State sought to create the certificate programs after repeatedly fielding calls from companies looking for entry-level employees whom they could continue to train, Jones said.
Mark Shaffer, North Canton site leader for internet and phone support at Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable), believes the Learn to Earn initiative will help increase the talent pool for companies seeking employees with technical skills.
Shaffer, who is a Canton Township trustee, said Spectrum is expanding its North Canton site and looking to hire 60 people to help support its internet and phone residential customers. Shaffer said Spectrum, like many other companies in the information technology industry, prefer applicants who have CompTIA A+ and Network Plus certifications or a related associate degree for its help desk and computer user support jobs.
Stark State's Learn to Earn computer technology certificate includes five college-level courses to prepare students for the CompTIA A+ and Network Plus certificate exams. Other Learn to Earn programs will prepare students for the Microsoft Office specialist certificate exam, the Environmental Protection Agency refrigerant recovery core + Level 2 certificate exam, the Automotive Service Excellence maintenance and light repair (G1) certificate exam and the American Welding Society certified welder certificate exam.
Jones said Stark State already is developing additional certificate programs for other in-demand jobs.
As part of Thursday's announcement, officials also announced a new initiative, called Learn to Earn, to help Stark County high school students earn the credentials they need to obtain entry-level jobs in information technology, automotive, welding and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration while simultaneously earning the credits they need to graduate high school.
Jones said the ESC's move to Stark State's Advanced Technology Center reinforces the building's original purpose of being a partnership center. She said the center was built in the early 1990s with funding from the state and Diebold. The Green-based company, now called Diebold Nixdorf, used the building to house its worldwide training headquarters for roughly 21 years until it consolidated its offices a few years ago.
"We've been looking for a great strategic partner that aligns with our mission and the needs of the region," Jones said.
State education leaders John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, and John Richard, deputy superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education, hailed the new partnership and said they encourage other counties and educational service centers to follow Stark County's example. The Stark County ESC, which was founded as the county board of education in July 1914, is one of 52 educational service centers in Ohio.
Richard, a former Perry Local superintendent, called the relocation of the Stark ESC a natural fit, and said its relationship with the Stark State has the same three qualities shared goals, communication and trust that keeps longtime married couples together.
"There's a shared goal and understanding of where we are going in the future, there's obviously great communication and that's happened for as long as I have been in Stark County as an educator ... and there's a mutual trust here that I think the business community and the greater community feels as well," said Richard, a Sandy Valley High School graduate. "I am just thrilled that the two of you are coming together."
Chaddock said the educational service center has been searching for additional space for the past three years. He said it has outgrown its current building at 2100 38th St. NW in Plain Township and the portions of the building that were built in 1914 need significant renovation.
Under a lease agreement that's expected to be approved tonight by the Stark County ESC's governing board, the educational service center will pay roughly $200,000 a year for 42,000 square feet space located on the first and second floors of the building. The five-year lease includes three renewal options for five years each.
Chaddock expects the ESC to begin making the transition to Stark State in the fall. He said up to 200 of the ESC's 500 employees likely would move to the Advanced Technology Center. In addition to providing administrative, legal and fiscal services, the ESC also oversees the Stark County Schools Council of Governments, which manages the health benefits plan for more than 50,000 people and provides bulk purchasing opportunities to districts, and the Stark Portage Area Computer Consortium, which provides internet and technology services to districts.
The ESC also provides housing for State Support Team Region 9, an arm of the state education department that helps struggling districts improve.
Those employees not affected by the move include special education and preschool teachers as well as some classroom support personnel who would remain working inside area schools.
Chaddock said a decision on the future of the ESC's current building has not been made. The Stark County ESC purchased the former Edgefield Elementary School from the Plain Local Board of Education in 1992. The purchase had marked the first time the county board owned its own facility.
Chaddock said the building could be demolished or the ESC could save the portion of the building that was built in 1995 for meeting and classroom space. He said the ESC currently must rent space from area schools for many of its special education classes and would like to expand its special education programs.
Stark State spokeswoman Marisa Rohn said the college's W.R. Timken Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory, culinary program, advanced biotechnology laboratory and a few classrooms will remain in the Advanced Technology Center. She said the college's Education, Human and Social Services, Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy and noncredit classes and laboratories will be moved to other available space on campus. She estimated that fewer than 25 Stark State employees will be impacted by the move.