MSD Seeks Creation Of STEM School

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School-Bus-lgAlthough students of the Milford School District have been off to a delayed start this year, due to Winter Storm Hercules and severe weather conditions, the administration has been busy planning for the future of Milford schools. Aimed at preparing students for after graduation, whether that be college, work or military service, Superintendent Phyllis Kohel and her staff are in the development phase of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) vocational education pathway that is slated to become part of the Milford High School in three to four years time.

Providing a vocational school to assist Milford students has been discussed by the administration and the Milford School Board for years as “Milford continues to lose students to other vocational schools in Delaware because we do not offer those courses,” commented Superintendent Kohel. “We want our students to have the opportunity to be a part of a school that does not offer only college preparation. There is a mindset that  you can only get a vocational education if you attend a vocational school, we want to change that.”

Supervisor of Career & Technical Education Mark McDaniel has been an advocate of the STEM vocational school at Milford and is currently helping to develop a course load that could include Journalism, Theatre & Music Management , Arts Management, Biotechnology, Pre-Engineering, Food Science, Physical Therapy and Robotics. The idea of the vocational institution in Milford became more than just an idea after Dr. McDaniel attended Manufacturing Day at First State Manufacturing in Milford, a facility that manufactures upholstery for military and private contractors. Through a discussion with owner of the business Eli Valenzuela, students discovered the multitude of jobs that make up the manufacturing industry.

“The students were able to see the different jobs that a single manufacturing facility consists of. Someone is needed to program the machines, repair the machines, come up with engineering solutions to benefit the business,” commented McDaniel. “The STEM vocational school creates a foundation for all the skills needed to perform these jobs, the foundation for tomorrow’s workforce. STEM creates what I like to call the ‘creative jobs’ which is what employers are looking for.”

Superintendent Kohel states that not only will the STEM school change the landscape of how the students learn, it will also change the interaction between teacher and student. “Students will learn the fundamental problem-solving skills, the ability to analyze and synthesis solutions,” stated Kohel. “In a lot of STEM programs the teacher becomes more of the facilitator of the class instead of just the instructional leader, allowing students to evaluate and solve problems on their own.”

The administration hopes to also reinstate the gifted and talented programs at the elementary schools for grades three to five, which were cut three years ago due to funding constraints. This after-school program will be in line with the STEM school at Milford helping to develop science, technology, engineering and math skills at an early age.

The vocational school being a long-range goal for the district, Dr. Kohel acknowledges that there are many steps that will need to be taken in order to reach that plan. The first of all these steps is the passing of a referendum on March 26, 2014 for the demolition of the previous Milford Middle School and the construction of a new middle school on the same site. At the same time as the construction referendum, on a separate ballot, the Milford School District will ask the public to vote on an operational referendum which will include “continuance and maintenance of ongoing academic programs, increased energy costs associated with the operations of all district facilities and technology.”

“Our long-range goal is to pass the referendum and get the middle school up and running again,” commented Phyllis. “If that is successful we can move forward with building the vocational school at the Milford Central Academy.”

The decision to close the Milford Middle School was made by the Milford Board of Education after the Delaware Department of Education made it clear in 2011 that any major rehabilitation or construction would not be funded by the State of Delaware. If the referendum is passed by the public on March 26, 2014 school officials state that it will take three to four years to see a complete demolition of the previous Milford Middle School, construction of the new middle school on the same site and the opening of the school for the purpose of public education. School officials encourage residents to stay informed about the referendum process by visiting http://milfordschooldistrict.org. For more information individuals are urged to email Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel at pkohel@msd.k12.de.us or Director of Finance Mrs. Tammy Korosec at tkorosec@msd.k12.de.us.