Abilene schools

A sale bill advertising Saturday’s auto equipment liquidation auction in the Abilene High School Vo-Ag building spurred school board discussion Monday night about options for students interested in pursuing a career in automotive technology.

Superintendent Greg Brown showed Abilene Board of Education members the flyer listing the vast number of items that will be sold during Saturday’s auction.

“They (auctioneers) are still organizing the equipment,” Brown told the board. “It’s going to be quite an auction. I’m looking forward to a great crowd with that.”

Flyer spurs questions

Board Member Mark Wilson said he was approached by several district patrons who had seen the auction sale bill and asked what was being done to serve the needs of students since automotive mechanics is no longer offered at AHS.

Assistant Superintendent Chris Cooper explained that AHS Principal Ben Smith reached out to all students who were enrolled in auto tech last school year and gave them the option to attend classes at Salina Area Technical College (SATC).

“When the teacher went away, those classes went away, too,” explained AHS Principal Ben Smith. “So the kids who took those classes were able to go to Salina Tech and continue on and kids who want to take those classes in the future can still enroll in those classes in Salina if they want.”

Private sector pays more

Abilene High School was unable to offer automotive tech classes this school year when the instructor took a different job in the school district. Afterwards, advertisements and search attempts failed to locate any qualified applicants with the proper certification required to teach the courses.

The problem, district officials said, was that people with the required automotive knowledge were no longer gravitating toward teaching because they could make significantly more money working in the private sector.

The inability to find a teacher created a quandary since a number of AHS students already were taking classes working on the auto tech pathway. So after examining a number of options (including bringing an SATC teacher to teach in Abilene’s shop which was not feasible), the decision was made for Abilene students to continue auto classes in Salina.

But there’s nothing unusual in that. AHS has been transporting students to Salina Tech in recent years to attend classes and receive certifications in a number of fields, including Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), construction, electrical, HVAC and others.

”Our connection with Salina Tech has been pretty solid for many years.” Smith said.


Board Member Chris West said he has heard from patrons wondering how students can attend class in Salina, yet still have time go to school in Abilene.

“Someone asked me how that works since it’s an hour drive there and back,” West asked.

Smith said schedules vary based on whether the student is a junior or senior. Juniors, who are in the first year of the auto tech program are transported to Salina in the morning and return sometime in the third block time period.

Seniors, who are in the second year of the program, are transported in the afternoon.

“We block them for first and second (block) with us — ideally it’s for English and government and then two other classes — then they’re in Salina in the afternoon taking classes,” Smith said. “Ultimately, it counts as equivalent of about four elected classes for them in a semester.”

Wilson said he thinks continuing the coursework at Salina Tech is a good plan but wonders if there’s still some way to offer some sort of introductory auto class.

“That introduction class would do some good for people. Like how to check out a car,” Wilson said.

He also felt that a basic introduction class was a good “hook” that often spurred students to continue on in the automotive field.

Smith agreed, “That’s the only thing we’re lacking. Something for the kid who might not have decided to go down that path unless they took that intro course. But any kid who wants it (to take auto classes) is going to be able to take it as long as there’s room in the program.”

Wilson suggested the auto tech option at Salina Tech be mentioned to students during enrollment to “try and direct them that way.”

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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