Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media
Superintendent Glenn Faircloth is excited for students to come back to school.
Nearly 1,080 students will fill the hallways of the Lorain County Joint Vocational School on Aug. 31 for the first day of classes.
The school serves students from 13 different districts in the county.
Workers are repairing a few last-minute projects and teachers are starting to prepare their classrooms.
We sat down with superintendent Glenn Faircloth to talk about his vision for the 2015-2016 school year, upgrades to the building, and his future goals.
“We do it all,” Faircloth said of the wide range of tracks the vocational school offers. “Academics is key to us.”
The school received two A’s, two B’s, and one C on last year’s state report card with the C in “technical skill attainment,” which measures how many students pass technical assessments.
The focus this year at the JVS is not on expanding program offerings but on increasing enrollment in each course already on the books.
Students at the vocational school do have a huge advantage, Faircloth believes, because they don’t just study for tests, they get hands-on practice using the information they learn in their fields of study.
“Here students take multiple tests and have to prove they know that test because you build it or construct it or map it out and then constantly have to build on that,” Faircloth said. “You don’t forget those things.”
The JVS is no longer the school it used to be, he said.
“We’ve been working hard at it,” Faircloth said. “Education is more than just about learning. It’s about the experience of learning and how this learning will help me become a better provider for my family, better for me, and a better community person and that’s what we have.”
While other area school districts have seen a decrease in number of enrolled students, the JVS has been increasing its freshman enrollment.
Faircloth said it has gone from 27 students to 160 and he wants to double that number next year to reach 320 freshmen.
FINANCES AND SECURITY
“We’re in a better shape than we were three years ago,” Faircloth said of the JVS’ balance book.
When he was first hired as superintendent, he did not go to the taxpayers and ask for more money because he wanted to work with what the JVS had and make some changes to help the school financially.
Those changes included employee cuts, salary freezes, reducing positions through retirements, and keeping a tight clamp on spending.
“I wanted everything to be pretty much concentrated on the operation of the building and for students to learn,” Faircloth said. “Student learning was the center of my focus and safety was the core of that. So we made some changes.”
A locking buzzer system and cameras were installed last year to every door entering the school.
Faircloth said this security upgrade may seem like overkill to some, but it’s necessary considering school safety problems manifesting nationwide. He reflected on the Columbine shootings in April 1999 and the Chardon shooting in February 2012.
“We have not had those type of incidents but that doesn’t mean we are not prone to have them,” Faircloth said. “I like to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to safety in my building.”
UPGRADES AND REPAIRS
Workers have been very busy this summer at the JVS making repairs and upgrades to the school’s Internet server network, public address system wiring, renovating the Buckeye Room, and repairing the driveway.
The school’s Internet server had to be upgraded to meet the demand of the JVS’s iPad initiative.
“This year we will have well over 600 students that will have iPad Minis,” Faircloth said. “We will be first in this county to do something like that school-wide.”
Teachers have been taking training courses to learn new ways to use the iPads to interact with students and during lessons.
Technology allows for more interactive learning, Faircloth said. Teachers have seen an increase in student engagement since starting to use the iPads.
The JVS board of education approved a $120,800 contract with Don Mould’s Plantation to renovate the Buckeye Room by October.
“This is one of our jewels to our building,” Faircloth said. “We always have a great turnout and waiting list to get in here.”
The restaurant and dining room — used by culinary students — was built in the 60s or 70s and has not been renovated since that time. The new restaurant area is expected to be larger, handicap accessible, and brighter.
Workers have patched holes in the school’s parking lots and concrete work is being done in the school’s drop-off area for larger trucks.
Faircloth said he tries to finish certain jobs in phases to help with limit spending.
“I’m really focusing on putting money toward places where it makes the school get more benefits to the students so they can get a quality education,” he said.
The PA system was also upgraded this summer, fixing all of the clocks in the school and allowing anyone speaking on the system to be heard throughout the entire building.
“A lot of what we are doing is really getting us back up to code,” Faircloth said.
Now he hopes to start working on painting projects throughout the school to brighten hallways and classrooms.
“I just really want to make it more inviting,” he said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.