April 24, 2014

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Wadsworth school chief wants to add Chinese, med-tech training to curriculum

WADSWORTH — Students at Wadsworth High School could have more opportunities in the job market as a result of two programs under consideration by the school board.

At Monday evening’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dale Fortner proposed replacing the school’s professional teacher training program with a medical technician training program that offers certification, as well as adding Mandarin Chinese to the high school curriculum.

Dale Fortner

“We want to keep these students competitive on the job market,” Fortner said.

Both proposals will be up for approval by the board at its Dec. 10 meeting. If approved, they will be available to students starting next school year.

Fortner was confident both programs would be approved.

The medical technician training is part of the Four Cities Educational Compact, which trains students from Wadsworth, Barberton, Copley and Norton in fields including carpentry, cosmetology, masonry, business and teaching. The teaching program did not offer certification, but instead gave students a “taste” of the field.

“Teaching is becoming harder and harder to get into,” Fortner said. “It was a great program, but it wasn’t working anymore.”

At Monday’s meeting, the teaching program was discontinued for next school year.

Upon graduation from high school, Fortner said the medical technician training would give students certification similar to an associate degree in areas like radiology and phlebotomy. It’s possible, he said, that the students could be hired in their fields right out of high school.

He said he hopes the Mandarin Chinese courses would make students even more marketable, regardless of their career paths.

“We did some research and we found that it’s not German or Russian or French that’s desired anymore — it’s Mandarin Chinese,” Fortner said.

It’s so marketable, in fact, that fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have had access to “exploratory” Mandarin lessons for four years. Next year would mark the first year for high school students, if the board approves the course.

Any student would be allowed to take the class, but he said he recommends students getting an early jump on it in middle school because the language is difficult to master.

Fortner said the district considered Farsi and Cantonese as well, but settled quickly on Mandarin.

The driving force was that the Chinese are largely bilingual, he said. As a result, it’s becoming harder and harder to compete with them.

“In order for our kids to compete with the Chinese, our kids have to be bilingual, too.”

Wadsworth High School also offers courses in Spanish, French and Latin, Fortner said.

The district has two part-time Mandarin teachers right now, he said. Depending on the interest generated in the class, at least one of those teachers would be promoted to full time.

He said he believes the program will succeed.

“We had to decide whether we were offering a 21st-century education,” Fortner said. “Now we are.”

Contact Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.