PALMER — Current students, former students, parents and members of the community flooded the public comment section of the Mat-Su Borough School District School Board meeting on Dec. 16 to discuss the proposed changes to the admissions system at Career Tech High School. While some were in favor of changes, nearly everyone that spoke in person or telephonically to the school board was opposed to the proposed lottery admission system.
“The best thing you can do for a student is to present them with an opportunity and allow them to shape it in their best interests. I believe that is what CTHS currently does for students, no matter their goals after high school, whether they be academic or they plan to go to a trade school. These things work together,” said Alex Praner. “This is something we should strive for at every school. There are many ways to achieve this but the rushed overhaul of a school currently ranked first in the state is not the correct way to do so.”
Praner was one of a long list of current Career Tech students who attended the meeting to speak in opposition to the changes. Students from CTHS said that over 400 current students signed a petition voicing their opposition. The list of students that spoke included the Student Representative to the school board Ryan Thomas.
“Instead of trashing the system we have now for a lottery, why don’t we try to improve on the system,” said Thomas. “Career Tech has a very interesting learning environment that no other school to my knowledge in the state has. We’re known for that and everyone appreciates that.”
Following a break taken by the school board once Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani had finished his presentation on the proposed changes, School Board Member Ryan Ponder questioned the feasibility of the proposed changes.
“I just look at it with what you had said in regards to ensuring that all of the school are elite, but I feel like you’re, the administration would be tearing down a school that has achieved something and whether or not the mission is being followed or whatever was proposed in a bond that was passed like 20 years ago right 2003. I just, it doesn’t seem like the right direction to say okay well we’re going to start making all the schools elite by changing this one and just totally going in there and shaking things up. It defies logic if that’s what we’re looking to do,” said Ponder. “Are there not other schools that we could start at and say hey we want to raise the bar and bring them up as opposed to going to one that is recognized nationally.”
Students conducted surveys of the student body to present to the school board, claiming that overwhelming majorities of current students favor the application system over a lottery system.
“I don’t think other students would be able to maintain that standard. I don’t think they’d do well under the standard that the teachers are holding us to now and that could be very bad for the school,” said CTHS senior Erin McCullogh. “In my four years at Career Tech, I have never once seen any instance of bullying or fighting or drug and alcohol usage and it’s been phenomenal. Career Tech is such a safe environment and the people are kind and they care for one another, something that I don’t see at other schools and I think that with the lottery system if we allow just anyone in, I think it could be a problem where we lose our unique atmosphere.”
The School Board will meet again on Jan. 6 at 6 p.m.