The board of the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center (CTC) recently voted unanimously to conduct a feasibility study to assess facility needs and examine curriculum for high school students.

That vote came at a special session on April 24.

The motion made no mention of adult education, which is part of the school’s mission.

The Mission of the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center is to provide high school and adult students with the skill, knowledge, and understanding necessary to obtain employment, advance in careers, pursue postsecondary education and enrich their lives.

The Lebanon County Career & Technology Center is located at 833 Metro Drive in Lebanon. (LebTown file photo by Will Trostel)

The CTC had offered adult ed classes in nursing for the past 65 years prior to deciding last August to end their 12-month and 18-month LPN adult nursing programs on June 30. 

A month later at the board’s monthly meeting on May 21, North Lebanon Township resident Joni Kantor expressed her concerns to the CTC’s board about the decision last fall to end the adult nursing programs. She said she doesn’t know why it ended when there is demand for licensed practical nurses at Lebanon County healthcare facilities.

LebTown previously reported that a lack of space and the adult nursing programs not being financially self-sustaining are why those programs were set to end next month.

Read More: Adult education programs at Lebanon County career center will end in June

However, in response to LebTown questions prompted by a review of financial documents obtained through Right-to-Know request, CTC administrators have also told LebTown that the adult nursing program was in fact profitable, and had not incurred years of losses. Business administrator Tina Geyer said in an interview March 22 that the program was not profitable “enough.”

“Career and technicals schools are first and foremost secondary programs,” said director Andra Groller in that interview. “When the school chose to have adult education, specifically the practical nursing program, that goal then was to generate revenue and funds. Again there’s only so much money.”

Geyer said in the March interview that the over the last four years, administrators had cut almost the entire staff of the program out of an effort to be prudent. Groller said that attrition of students in the program was also a factor in its closing and that she “could see students were really struggling” based on issues passing the second and third levels of the three-level nursing program.

When asked whether it might be natural for attrition to go up as a result of hollowing out program staff, Groller said simply “no” and did not elaborate further.

Groller said in March that the CTC’s vision needed to change, and that the school would be reevaluating data to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

Now the CTC is beginning next steps on that process – but what exactly they are doing, and how much it is costing, remain unknown as school administrators have been mum on the topic.

LebTown filed Right-to-Know requests with the school this week to obtain more information on the subject.

Concerning the feasibility study passed April 24, LebTown asked administrative director Andra Groller and Joint Operating Committee (board) chairman Ruth Ann Schlegel for its cost following their May 21 monthly meeting, but neither said they had that information with them at the time. (The board, or JOC, consists of representatives from Lebanon County’s six public school districts.)

Follow-up emails to Groller and Geyer and a phone call to Groller’s voicemail requesting the cost also went unanswered as of publication time. The minutes for the April 24 meeting do not indicate a price tag for the feasibility study. 

On April 24, the JOC passed a motion to consider either Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg, Beers + Hoffman of Lebanon, or Gilbert Associates of Reading to conduct a multi-faceted feasibility study. 

That motion included the firms that presented and were interviewed by the JOC and others during an April 16 executive session that was held during their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. The motion passed unanimously to consider those three firms for the project. 

Following that motion, Beers + Hoffman was eventually unanimously selected following discussion as to why they were being selected for the feasibility study. That discussion was led by Philip Domencic, superintendent of Cornwall Lebanon School District. 

“When you are looking at the feasibility study, I believe the more comprehensive approach will benefit the JOC and the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center for the long term, as well as having local firms that could engage in this because they would be actively engaged throughout the life of this contract,” said Domencic. “With that, there was one firm that did have a construction management company and an educational consultant as part of their proposal, and that was Beers + Hoffman.”

It was stated during discussion that Beers + Hoffman offers more than just architectural services. 

“What I think it provides is a more comprehensive look, not just the building itself, but all of the programs as well as the actual cost, and particularly when you look at a building that’s going to require substantial renovations due to its age, having a construction management company tied to that that can provide some rough estimates for that will be helpful,” added Domencic. 

Schlegel agreed with Domencic’s assessments. 

“I think the curriculum expertise will be so valuable in terms of having that here,” said Schlegel. Some of the things that I heard in the presentation by Beers + Hoffman talked about the review of the current LCCTC programs, which I think is absolutely critical, looking at the history, student performance, cost-benefit analysis of current program, examining alignment of current programming here at the CTC, so I think that’s critical.”

Schlegel also highlighted the alignment of the CTC’s national trends with local context needs. 

“With the curriculum expertise – and what attracted me to this particular piece – is the fact that they will analyze financial structure on how member districts currently utilize and fund CTC programming, determine alternative funding sources and explore grant opportunities that support the implementation of additional and/or modified programming. I think that is a critical piece in the way that I am looking at that,” she added.

She further noted that building needs are critically tied to what programming the school will offer in the future.

The Lebanon County Career & Technology Center’s Joint Operating Committee recently approved a feasibility study which will examine, in part, the physical plant needs of the school. (LebTown file photo by Will Trostel)

“We need to have something that we’re not only looking at as a building but we need to have the educational piece built into that, and I think that is a real critical piece … something that kind of goes hand in hand with that,” said Schlegel. “I liked it when they said that they’re here to listen, they have the local connections, brings value to tight bids and with very low cost for change orders, and I like that piece there. I also like that they are connected to the Lebanon community and they are connected, again, to the Lebanon (Valley) Chamber of Commerce.”

After the April 24 special session, Groller told LebTown that the feasibility study is important because the CTC is currently denying admission to students who want to study there. Groller previously told LebTown that 200 students were turned away for the 2023-24 academic year.

“The feasibility study is very important for the Lebanon community because right now we are turning away students, so the students of Lebanon County do not, secondary students, do not have an opportunity to come to the CTC to learn a skilled trade,” she said. “In the meantime, we’re finding that many of our programs are over enrolled, so we do not have the capability to have our students in Lebanon County involved here. So those opportunities are very important.” 

How the curriculum portion of the feasibility study will fit into student course requests is unclear. 

Groller said after the April 24 meeting that the administration has new programs it would like to open in high-priority and high-demand occupations. The most requested courses at the CTC are welding, automotive/auto body and cosmetology.

“Also, we have some new programs that we would like to open with the high-priority occupations and the high-demand occupations here in Pennsylvania,” she said. “There are some specific programs that we’re seeing a rise throughout the county as well, so it’s important to move forward on that aspect if we’re looking at programming.”

LebTown asked Groller if the feasibility study, which she said is expected to take six to eight months to complete, would include new construction or just renovations to existing infrastructure.

“We don’t know that, currently right now the feasibility study will look at the existing building, whether that means updating our infrastructure or maybe adding on,” she said. “They may recommend a new building, but like I said we’re just beginning the study.” 

Whether a new building might include space for adult education classes like nursing is also unknown at this time.

At the JOC’s May 21 meeting, Kantor stated during public comment that the vote to end the 12- and 18-month licensed practical nursing adult programs “a terrible decision for Lebanon County.”

“The LPN program provides jobs here in Lebanon County for nursing homes, doctors’ offices and home healthcare,” said Kantor, whose husband is a local doctor. “These men and women start off with a foot in the door with their LPN degree and have a tendency to further their education when they can for a BSN (a bachelor’s degree in nursing) or further.” 

An adult wishing to obtain a LPN degree would have to travel to Berks or Dauphin counties to get it, which would add to the cost of their education. 

Brian Raub, who lives in Lebanon County, told LebTown in an email that it would cost him about $2,400 annually to drive to either county based on fuel costing $3.50 per gallon, making two round trips daily for 150 school days and getting 17 miles per gallon. 

Raub, who was one of 47 students signed up for the fall 2023 LPN semester at the CTC, noted that figure would double if a student attended a two-year LPN program.

Kantor said adult students traveling elsewhere to learn is not beneficial to Lebanon County residents.

“As you all age, I hope for your sake that you are able to get nursing care,” said Kantor. “Having a program elsewhere does not help our Lebanon County residents. We have been short of nurses in Lebanon County. You can see this by the wait you have at a doctor’s office or in nursing facilities.”

Kantor informed the JOC that there were 50-plus available LPN jobs in Lebanon County that were listed on Indeed, a digital job website that’s on the internet, as of Tuesday, May 21. 

“The next time you are in a local doctor’s office, look at who is on the other end of the stethoscope,” she said. “I am sure that some of them have gone through the LPN program and provide great care for Lebanon County residents.”  

Kantor said she looked over the past five CTC budgets and didn’t understand why the adult nursing program was ending. Groller previously told LebTown that one reason the LPN programs were ending was due to “the availability of funds to continue with the adult education program.” 

“I hope to sit down with your financial officer to have them explain to me where this has caused a hardship in the career and tech center,” said Kantor.

Schlegel thanked Kantor for expressing her views, but no one on the board or administration offered any other comments in response to Kantor’s remarks. Later in the week during a follow-up call with Kantor, she said she still hadn’t heard from anyone in the administration or the JOC.

A call to Groller and an email on Friday, May 24 to ask whether Kantor would be granted a meeting with the CTC administration to discuss her concerns went unanswered.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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