Technical education developed differently in Delaware, Iowa

2014-05-25T08:00:00Z Technical education developed differently in Delaware, IowaANDREW WIND andrew.wind@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

WILMINGTON, Del. | Before Delaware’s system of county technical high schools developed, there was H. Fletcher Brown Vo-Tech.

Kathy Demarest, supervisor of community relations for the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, said it operated as the state’s sole vo-tech from the late 1940s until 1969. Delcastle Technical High School was built in Wilmington that year to replace it and serve New Castle County. A vo-tech was also built in Delaware’s two other counties to serve those areas.

During that same time period, Delaware Technical and Community College was created. It is the only technical and community college in the state.

Howard High School of Technology became the county’s second vo-tech in 1976, after being transformed from a comprehensive high school. Demarest said two years later lawmakers approved countywide vocational technical school systems for Delaware. The New Castle County district now has four high schools.

Technical districts receive per pupil state funding, like other public schools in Delaware. “We receive additional instructional funding units for (career and technical education) students, as the labs are most costly to equip,” said Demarest, based on a state funding formula. Technical districts also have property taxing authority, capped at a certain rate by the General Assembly.

Technical high school districts in each county draw students from comprehensive school systems, which also continue through 12th grade. Students can choose to keep attending their traditional district or apply to a technical high school. New Castle County has five comprehensive school districts.

Students come to technical schools from a variety of other systems, as well. “There are also many charter options, private, religious and independent schools in addition to vo-techs,” said Demarest. Additional high schools in New Castle County include seven charter and four magnet schools plus a number of the other options.

Iowa students do not have a similar option to choose a technical high school over their local comprehensive school system. As a result, there will be no extra state funding for the added expense of any technical programs that Waterloo Community Schools chooses to begin.

Technical education was once a stronger component of many Iowa school districts, including in Waterloo. The Manual Training School was built in 1909 at Mulberry and East Sixth streets downtown, according a history on the district’s website. Within a decade, the building had been converted to the first junior high in Waterloo.

But Waterloo Schools remained involved in vo-tech education. According to documents proposing what is now Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo was the only district in the area providing vocational education opportunities for students by the late 1950s.

Along with several high school programs, the district offered post-secondary vocational education starting with practical nursing in 1957. Six years later, the district began offering mechanical and electronic technology, auto mechanics, body and fender repair, and welding. Programs were transferred to Hawkeye after the school was organized in 1966.

Since then, the district has made one short-lived attempt at establishing a separate high school-level technical education program.

Bunger School of Technology opened in the fall of 1995 after several years of planning in what had been -- and is again -- a middle school in Evansdale. The school promised a hands-on technology- and career-focused education.

Two months later, though, the Board of Education voted to close the building at the end of its first year and transfer the program to other high schools. A new superintendent, Arlis Swartzendruber, discovered the district was swimming in debt and targeted the school along with a number of other programs. The decision to close Bunger was reaffirmed by the board in March 1996.

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