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CCHS shop teacher hopes program survives

Corydon Central is known at a annual contest in Michigan as a high school with students who make top-notch furniture.
Now, woodworking instructor Randy Coleman fears the program is on its way out after the South Harrison Community School Corp. board of trustees voted last week without comment to hire an additional science teacher for CCHS instead of pursuing a successor for Coleman who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Neither the superintendent nor the principal are recommending that Coleman’s position be filled.
‘I’m not opposed to hiring a science teacher; they probably need one,’ said Coleman, who is finishing his 20th year at Corydon Central.
Rather, he contends that with his retirement, the school corporation should be able to hire two beginning teachers for about the same salary he earns, since he is at the top end of the pay scale.
At last Tuesday night’s board meeting, Coleman told of former students who were labeled as ‘troublemakers’ but flourished in shop classes.
‘Their self-esteem would go up; then they’d start doing better in their other classes,’ he said in a phone interview Monday.
About 150 students pass through the shop program in a given school year. Those numbers have declined from the 250 in years past, Coleman said. ‘Most of the time we had 200 to 250 students,’ he said. ‘We reach a lot of students.’
Shop classes provide students with hands-on work while teaching them how to work with others, Coleman said.
Many of the students craft projects that are taken to the annual Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society contest in Grand Rapids, where they have a tradition of placing in the top 10 in several categories. Thousands of projects are entered by numerous schools in the region.
Coleman said he didn’t learn until after the second semester had started in January that his position may not be filled. He said he talked with CCHS Principal Carole Apple, who confirmed that she was recommending the school board hire a science teacher. That would bring the total number of teachers in that department to five, Coleman said.
The Indiana Dept. of Education recognizes shop classes as meeting state standards, Coleman said.
Not only does the shop program teach skills students can use, Coleman said it helps other departments, such as the athletic department, brings in money and has saved the school corporation money.
Past students have made bookcases for many of the classrooms in the building and shelving used in the IMC when it was remodeled several years ago.
If Coleman isn’t replaced, he said the program will be drastically cut from what it is. The junior high program, which currently involves every eighth grader, will be eliminated; the metals class will be eliminated; and the number of shop classes will be reduced, especially since the other shop teacher is not licensed to teach the cabinet mill class.
‘Other schools were shocked to hear that our school board would not find a way to keep the (CCHS) program at the level it is,’ said Coleman, who was at a meeting in Michigan over the weekend to discuss the upcoming MITES conference.
Coleman is asking the seven school board members to reconsider filling his position.
‘This is one time I think the school board needs to decide for themselves what’s best for the students,’ Coleman said, adding that he intends no disrespect to the board. ‘I know we’ve got a good board. I’m kind of disappointed, though.’
Corydon Central High School has several pieces of equipment that are used in the shop program and are located in good space in the building, the teacher said.
‘We have everything going for us,’ Coleman said. If the equipment is sold, it would be hard to replace it, especially cost wise, if the school corporation decided to bring the program back to what it is now, he said.
‘I just hate to see us lose what we’ve got here,’ Coleman said.
He said he intends to personally contact each school board member to invite them to stop by the school to see the facility and what the students do.