The board of the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center has decided to keep three of its four adult education courses but will still eliminate the LPN certification program later this year. (Will Trostel)

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In a reversal of a decision last November, the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center board has decided to keep three of its four adult education programs.

The Joint Operating Committee, the center’s board of directors, voted on Tuesday, June 18, to overturn a resolution adopted on Nov. 21, 2023, approving “the curtailment, alteration and elimination of the LCCTC’s Adult Education Program in its entirety.”

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

The JOC adopted a subsequent resolution at its June meeting approving “the continuation of certain limited adult programs, specifically its programs related to Pennsylvania Emissions and Safety Inspections and its Culinary and Pastry Apprenticeships” and “to extend and temporarily continue the (Licensed) Practical Nursing Program to ensure that currently enrolled students may complete the program’s requirements.”

The resolution, which was passed unanimously, states that the LCCTC shall “continue to operate its Practical Nursing Program for a limited period of time so as to allow all currently enrolled students to participate in remediation, if necessary, and otherwise complete the program” but “will not enroll additional students into its Practical Nursing Program during this limited extension.”

As reported exclusively by LebTown last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires accredited programs like the one at the LCCTC to offer a teach-out plan if current students haven’t passed their state exams needed to receive their Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) certification. The adult nursing program is accredited by the state.

Read More: Lebanon County CTC faces mandates from state in nursing program closure

LCCTC offered a part-time adult nursing LPN program that ran 18 months and a full-time program that ran in 12 months.

After the June 18 meeting, LCCTC administrator Andra Groller told LebTown that the adult student nursing handbook states that remediation is offered for 12 weeks, meaning current students have until Sept. 13 to pass their classes.

Judd Pittman, a PDE official, had told LebTown that the remediation timeframe can “go on indefinitely until the student passes or decides to take another career path.”

“If a student doesn’t pass a certification exam, for example, there’s a requirement in our guidance for building out a plan like that to find a partner or continue to provide the service so that student, in the case of a nursing program, would be able to go through the remediation required so that they can take the certification test again and pass,” said Pittman. “That cycle would continue until the participant would pass or decide that this is not for me and move on to the next opportunity. But there is a requirement on the provider of the adult program to comply with a process we call ‘Completer’ status.”

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In a move that mirrors the Sept. 13 timeframe, the CTC on Tuesday terminated the practical nursing program director position held by Melissa Furman. They then rehired her for the same job “on a part-time basis through mid-September at the same hourly rate and for a job not to exceed 55 hours.”

The board also suspended, or terminated, the adult education director position held by Julia Ansel. Groller said the word “suspended” is used since Ansel is a “professional employee,” meaning she holds a professional certificate and that’s the word used for those positions.

Ansel, who attended the meeting, was asked afterwards by LebTown how she felt about her position being terminated. Ansel’s last day of employment is June 30. LebTown had previously reported that the school’s LPN certification programs has existed for 65 years.

“I think that more importantly than my job going away is the impact this decision will have on the community and the institutions that rely on the students that the adult education nursing programming is turning out,” said Ansel. “There is now even less opportunity for adult education in the community and that our already strained healthcare system will have even fewer nurses.”

Groller said after the meeting that the decision to reinstate the other three programs occurred because secondary students enrolled in them can potentially continue their education in those fields at the center after high school graduation.

The same instructors who teach those programs at the secondary level will serve as teachers for the adult versions of those courses.

“Culinary arts and pastry arts are apprenticeship programs,” said Groller. “Because the apprenticeship has been established with the state, we’d like to keep that. We do not have any adults enrolled in the apprenticeship for the fall 2024. We are keeping that open.”

The apprenticeship program is administered by two school chefs as is a pre-apprenticeship program, which is offered to secondary students prior to them potentially deciding to become apprentices at the center following graduation.

“If any of their students want to go into the apprenticeship program, they can do so,” said Groller. “Currently for the 2024-25 school year, we don’t have any adults enrolled in it.”

Groller confirmed with LebTown after the meeting that the culinary and pastry arts programs were slated to end along with the safety inspection and emissions and adult LPN certification programs at the end of this month.

“In hindsight, with the apprenticeship programs, because those are established, those are to remain open,” said Groller. “The safety inspection and emissions is important because that is the program of study that is set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Those students who are enrolled in both automotive and diesel go through inspection and emissions, so we still want to continue that, especially if there are students who do not turn 18 until after graduation that they can come back for the inspection and emissions (test).”

LebTown asked Groller after last week’s meeting if the adult nursing program was ending to create space for secondary programming since school officials had previously stated in published reports that the building isn’t large enough for high school students who wish to study there.

Groller said the issue is adult nursing student attrition and that the nursing program was “not generating enough funds” and that “money had to be taken from the secondary funds from the general fund budget to support the adult education program.”

“That’s not how the adult education program works in a career and technology school,” said Groller. “The adult education program is supposed to fund the secondary program.”

That statement, however, was not in line with information received by LebTown following a Right to Know request of the center’s financial records.

Read More: CTC board approves needs study, hears complaint about nursing program closure

CTC administrators had told LebTown that the adult nursing program was in fact profitable, and had not incurred years of losses. Business administrator Tina Geyer said in a March 22 interview that the program was not profitable “enough.”

“Career and technical schools are first and foremost secondary programs,” said 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.”

There are 14 students who were taking the state exam last week in hopes of receiving their LPN certification.

Geyer said in the March interview that 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 in March.

Groller also 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.

At a special session on April 24, the board unanimously approved a feasibility study to simultaneously “assess facility needs and examine curriculum for high school students.”

In a report financed by Lebanon County government via American Rescue Plan Act funding, the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce conducted in 2023 a study published in January 2024 titled “Advanced Training Center Needs Assessment.”

Read More: 11 projects funded, Lebanon County seeks to spend remaining ARPA dollars

LCCTC principal Alex DiMarzio is quoted saying, “Enrollment is really going up. This year we had an increase of about 150 students within the school. So right now we have about 700 students. Part of that has to do with the fact that some of our full day programs have gone to half day programs, which adds double the amount of students. But a lot of our programs are full or overenrolled. When it comes to the sheer number of students, it has definitely increased over time.”

Moreover, during a June 2023 tour with U.S. Congressman Dan Meuser, several LCCTC officials repeatedly stated that the school is too small to accommodate the students who want to study there.

Read More: Needs at career and tech center addressed during visit by Meuser

“To me, because I’ve been here 15 years, (the biggest concerns are) space and funding –with staffing coming between those two,” said Kelly Flowers, LCCTC counselor and co-op coordinator, during a press tour Monday, June 26, with U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-9), whose district includes Lebanon County.

As posted on its website, LCCTC’s mission is to provide high school students from all six county-based school districts and adults “the skills, knowledge and understanding to obtain employment, advance their careers, pursue secondary education and enrich their lives.”

LebTown has asked various community leaders in recent weeks what options adults who may want to obtain LPN certification have since the only LPN nursing certification program in Lebanon County was ending.

LPN certification classes are offered in Berks, Dauphin and Lancaster counties but no longer in Lebanon County once the LCCTC’s program ends later this year.

Their answers were the same, with Lebanon Valley College being cited as an option since it offers a nursing program. However, that is an RN program, and LPN certification is needed before a student can pursue a higher degree.

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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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