Sussex Tech: Fact or fiction

April 17, 2014

As the proud parent of two Sussex Tech graduates, I spent many hours at Sussex Tech supporting my children in their sports and academics. In that time, I built relationships with administrators, staff, coaches and support staff. These people provide the students a safe learning environment, opportunity to thrive and grow in the classroom and on the field. I am very fond of my Sussex Tech family.

I have heard and read the ongoing criticism of my school and school family and can no longer remain silent. It is my turn to share the facts rather than continue to tolerate the fiction. These facts are available for anyone to obtain if they are interested in learning what Sussex Tech is really about.

• Sussex Tech is supposed to be a technical school, not a college prep high school. Sussex Tech began as a part time technical school in 1961 but in the 80s, enrollment dropped approximately 50 percent, which meant teachers were being laid off. There were also scheduling conflicts and bussing issues, so if changes were not made Sussex County would have lost their only vocational-technical school. Therefore, in 1991 they became a full-time school.

With the change, Sussex Tech students have a choice when they graduate. They are prepared to continue their education or to go into the workforce with good technical skills.

• Sussex Tech picks who they want to admit and only pick the “smart” kids.

All students are admitted using a computerized lottery except children of fulltime staff and board members, and siblings of current students or within two years of graduated student. The only students who do not qualify are those with a grade lower than 70 percent in content areas. This is less than 1 percent of students who apply. Tech serves special education students along with regular education students and has an ethnically and economically diverse population. The computerized lottery system is monitored by the Office of Civil Rights and Department of Education.

• If Tech doesn’t want to deal with disciplinary problems they just send them back to their home school.

Students are sent to alternative places like SCOPE just like other districts and must complete their time there before they can choose to transfer or return to Tech. These students can opt to return to their home school but are not forced to do so. Some students choose to return to their home school because they don’t want to or can’t meet the graduation requirements at Sussex Tech.

• Sussex Tech gets all the home school’s money when they “steal” our students.

Tech only gets the State portion of the student money, not local, so home schools keep 80 percent of the money.

• Sussex Tech gets so much money from the government so why should we give them tax money?

Since 2008, the district has lost more than $8 million in local, state and federal funding. The request for an increase in the tax ceiling (cap) was thoroughly reviewed by a legislatively mandated committee, community members appointed by the governor’s office, and superintendents from other Sussex County schools. The proposed legislation does not increase the tax rate, it increases the ceiling (cap).

Sussex Tech has provided a quality education in a safe environment for many students. Instead of trying to destroy this for our children, I think it would behoove other districts to try to implement the successes Tech has had in their own schools. After all, the home districts have nine years (K-8) to show their students what they have to offer. If students are choosing to attend Sussex Tech for high school shouldn’t these districts look at what they are doing to drive students away? The children are our future. It’s time to work together in the best interest of our children.

Melissa Barron

  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

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