The University of Alaska Southeast's actions to cut Juneau-Douglas High School's auto program at the end of the spring 2008 semester is not conducive to my ideals of what an educational institution should be. Dissolving the 25-year automotive partnership with the Juneau School District will be severely detrimental to the educational experience of hundreds of district students.
This move will impact the entire community and hurt the entire vocational department within the district. If a suitable alternative location is not found for the high school automotive program, another vital elective program serving a 'niche' for Juneau's students will be lost. "Justifications" have been presented to me as to why this cut was necessary, but several facts remain.
1) The JDHS Automotive program has positively impacted more than 3,000 students during this 25 year partnership.
2) Students from the JDHS automotive program have won thousands of dollars in scholarships and equipment for the UAS tech facility, have transitioned successfully into the UAS Automotive programs as well as other post-secondary institutions, and have continued on in careers within the industry. All this because they started at JDHS.
3) In good faith, the JDHS Auto program has supported UAS to acquire National Automotive Technician Education Foundation certification through funding ($25,000), and articulation of JDHS Auto classes with UAS Auto classes.
4) The UAS tech facility is woefully underutilized due to low enrollment, and in my opinion, terminating the school district partnership only exacerbates this obvious problem.
5) I am a professional high school instructor and have only received outstanding evaluations from students, parents and administration. The JDHS auto program is successful with its target audience, students from the age of 15-18. A college professor has no business in a high school classroom. My program has fit the needs of all our students, special ed to over-achievers, not just college-bound individuals.
6) And the most important, the JDHS automotive program has an unblemished safety record. Not one serious injury has occurred during my tenure as instructor.
I've been a teacher in Alaska for 14 years. I won't say every moment has been rewarding, but by and large it's been a good run. I will say that the narrow-minded educational focus I've witnessed under the present UAS faculty and administration is very disheartening. I urge anyone from the community to come to the UAS marine technological center during the day and take a tour. Tell me there's not enough room in this facility to house all present and proposed future programs, including one that been successful for 25 years. If this truly is the end of JDHS auto, what a shame.
Steve Squires is a Juneau-Douglas High School automotive teacher.
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