Parents Question School’s Decision to Cut Program

5:5:16 jeff techREYNOLDSVILLE, Pa. — In a letter dated March 4, 2015, from Jefferson County-DuBois Area Vocational-Technical School Executive Director Barry Fillman to the parents of students in the Protective Services Program, he assured them that it would continue to be offered as a career area for the foreseeable future.

Barely a year later, the program has been shut down.

For some parents of students in the program, including Steve and Cindy Manns, they feel like the rug has been pulled from beneath them.

“Both of our kids have no intention of leaving the program,” Cindy Manns said. “The school has yet to contact the parents of this decision. They explained things to the students, but there hasn’t been anything said to parents.”

“This was added as a late agenda item in the meeting, and then, all of a sudden it was voted to shut it down. Something doesn’t add up.”

For Steve Manns, a Pa. state trooper, he doesn’t understand the decision, either.

“Supposedly, they never talked about it before,” Steve said.

Junior Dylan Manns and sophomore Justin Manns are both in the program.

Fortunately for Dylan, he can continue in the program for his senior year.

According to previously published reports, Jeff Tech executive director Barry Fillman said current seniors and juniors in the program will be able to complete the program. Instructor Troy Conrad will work half-time for the 2016-17 school year.

Currently, there are six juniors in the program, and they will be able to finish Protective Services if they choose to.

“It’s a product of the enrollment,” Fillman said. “Every year at this time, we always look at our course offerings. There is a precedent for doing this. When we had 26 students in our lumber program, we closed it.”

According to information on Jeff Tech’s website, the Protective Services program is designed to prepare students for entry-level employment in state and local police departments, the Department of Justice, Department of Corrections, security guard, fire marshal, postal inspector, and insurance investigator.

It includes instruction in administrative procedures, vehicle code and accident investigation, crime code and criminal investigation, crime prevention, lab procedure, and other activities. Simulated activities can help develop skills in procedures used in police patrol, criminal and accident investigation, report writing, use of the crime and vehicle codes, first aid, and firearms training.

The program has had a six-year decline in enrollment; currently, with 12 in it now, and half of the class set to graduate this year, there is little thought to the program returning in the near future.

But, the school is working to increase the cyber security element of its computer network engineering shop.

“We are trying to increase that through a program through the FBI,” Fillman said.

Despite the lack of interest in Protective Services, the Pa. State Police experienced a large shortage of more than 300 officers last fall. And, with retirement projections in the next few years, that number is expected to grow by hundreds more.

Fillman believes the lack of interest in the Protective Services program has nothing to do with the school.

“We recruit students for all our programs, but the interest just isn’t there. Our programs are designed to get graduates into the work force. But, to enroll in the state police academy, you must be 20, and to be a state police officer, you must be 21, so I believe those delays have an impact on the lack of interest in state police,” Fillman said.

“The other thing that needs to be understood is that we need to focus our teaching efforts where the jobs are going to be in the near future, and around here, in the next 10 years, 50 percent of the skilled technicians in the HVAC and refrigeration trades are facing retirement. So, the demand is there, and there is more interest in those positions.”

But, Steve Manns isn’t satisfied with that explanation.

“I am on the Occupational Advisory Committee for Protective Services at the school, and I and others have requested to see applications for it. But, as of yet, we haven’t seen any.”

Adding insult to injury, Justin Manns recently won a state title in the Skills USA Trade Competition in Hershey. But, when it came time for a little recognition during a Jeff Tech school board meeting, Cindy Manns said a request was denied by Fillman. She said Fillman said it could wait until after nationals, which will be held this summer.

Justin Mann

Justin Mann

“It’s a shame he wasn’t recognized. They give recognition to the kids for all kinds of things – which is great – but he (Fillman) didn’t want it interfering with his agenda. The school has had state champions before and what great advertising for the program! But, it was put off.”

“This has become very personal for us, but we aren’t giving up, yet. We are going to keep fighting for the program,” Cindy said.


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