Governing board for new community school organized

STEUBENVILLE – An idea for a new community school to prepare high school students for a career in the oil and gas industry took another major step forward Friday with the first meeting of the Utica Shale Academy Governing Board.

William Pitts of Salineville, a 16-year former member of the Southern Local Board of Education, was elected president of the governing board and Mark Furda of Franciscan University of Steubenville was elected vice president of the board.

“I am excited to see this community school created and I am very excited for the kids who will be able to attend the Utica Shale Academy. This will be good for our kids who are interested in a job in the growing oil and gas industry,” said Pitts.

Also serving on the new governing board are Charles Joyce of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Larry Mayle of Howard Hanna Premier Real Estate of Toronto and Christina Wanat of Eastern Gateway Community College.

The USA community school will be located in a room in the Southern Local High School in Salineville, according to John Wilson, superintendent of the Southern Local School District.

“Dr. George Ash of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center and I had the idea of creating a community school to benefit our community and the real time job opportunities. There is the apprenticeship training program already in place at Eastern Gateway Community College and we felt a community school would prepare high school students to enter the oil and gas field or to continue their education at EGCC,” said Wilson.

“We will have a room in our high school available adjacent to our school computer room the USA students will be able to use. This is an excellent opportunity for our area students,” added Wilson.

Chuck Kokiko, director of the Ohio Cyber Academy for the ESC, said the conversion community school will be operated by the Southern Local School District and will offer a regular school curriculum along with an alternative educational program for future careers in the oil and gas industry.

Students in grades ninth through 12th will be eligible to enroll in the conversion school that will be located in a Southern Local facility to be determined.

“Southern Local officials approached us and explained their interest in the conversion school concept citing their proximity to the oil and gas industry. The school will provide specialized education for high school students who are interested in working in that field after high school. We will provide a curriculum of common core subjects and will use a vendor to provide the specialized subject curriculum. The graduates will be certificate in the trades,” Kokiko said.

“The school is set to open in the fall of 2014 and will operate on the regular school calendar. As we move forward our goal will be to recruit at least 25 students who are interested in attending this school. The schooling will give the students the skill set to get a job after they graduate from high school in the oil and gas field. This will give them a jump start on a career,” according to Kokiko.

During the brief initial meeting the USA Governing Board adopted a community school sponsorship contract with the ESC and set regular meeting dates for 10:30 a.m. the second Friday of each month.

The monthly meetings will be rotated between the ESC offices in Steubenville and the Southern Local board of education offices in Salineville.

Due to a scheduling conflict the March meeting is set for 10:30 a.m. on March 28 in Salineville.