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School District, WITC hope to forge stronger partnership

If Morrie Veilleux has his way, New Richmond could see a partnership between the high school and WITC.

That's because WITC could offer extended opportunities to New Richmond students -- something the school board has been hoping to do with a proposed charter school.

Joe Huftel, with WITC, met with the school board Monday night to give the board some background and explain the hardships WITC is having.

Huftel, who previously worked as a teacher and principal, said schools push kids toward four-year colleges after high school, but after a year almost half those students decide it isn't for them.

In New Richmond alone, 46 students --or 20 percent -- of the 2005 graduating class has taken at least one class at WITC, Huftel said.

Most people have a misconception when it comes to vocational schools, Huftel said. Of the businesses and industry surveyed, 70 percent want students with one- or two-year degrees; 25 percent want graduates with a four-year degree; and 5 percent want high school graduates.

Additionally, WITC graduates make an average of $30,246 annually their first year out, he said.

Statistics show that number jumps over five years.

For example, 2001-2002 students who graduated with a welding degree made $34,436 straight out of college; after five years, those students were making $48,588 -- a 40 percent increase.

Students with machine tool degrees made $26,304 out of college and after five years are making $41,136 -- a 56 percent increase.

Graduates with an ag power and equipment tech degree made $25,080 straight out of college. After five years, those same students were averaging $52,116 -- a 108 percent increase.

Veilleux said the statistics that WITC has from tracking its graduates is something the high school would benefit from because it proves what students need. It give staff an idea of what students are doing after high school.

"This data is what helps me make decisions," Huftel said.

The data shows one in nine residents have taken a class at one of the WITC campuses. That increasing number has caused Huftel to start looking for more space.

In Burlington, the high school leases a building to Gateway Technical College and allows students to take a variety of classes that count toward a college education.

In New Richmond, the school board couldn't build a new building for WITC to lease, but there could be opportunity when the current middle school is vacant, Veilleux said.

"We will have a facility that might be of use," Veilleux said. "We're looking at being able to provide a wider variety of programming for our kids."

Huftel said he's very interested in hearing about any partnership opportunities.

"It's a perfectly good building," Huftel said of the current middle school. "With some upgrades it could fulfill a need."

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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