The St. Johns County School District recently expanded its realm to include post-secondary education with the acquisition of First Coast Technical College.
Last Friday, the district took over administrative and operational duties after the college agreed to relieve itself of its charter status and its former president of her duties.
According to its website, the school had originally been under the direction of the St. Johns County School Board, but became a conversion charter school in 1999.
While traditional charter schools are typically publicly funded independent entities, conversion charters are more closely associated with their school districts. For examples, St. Johns Deputy Superintendent for Academic and Student Services Brennan Asplen says, First Coast Technical College teachers and other staff were included in the county’s collective bargaining unit.
Previously operated by its own president and board, the college will now be governed entirely by the district. Associate Superintendent for Student Support Services Cathy Mittelstadt says it’s not unusual in the state of Florida for school districts to include post-secondary institutions like technical colleges or vocational schools.
By assuming responsibility of the college, the district plans to examine existing programs and work to get the institution financially back on track.
Mittelstadt, who was appointed interim principal, says she wants to see a seamless transition.
“We hope the students don’t see any hiccups or any slowness in terms of them engaging in the programs that they desire,” she said. “If a student is out there interested in a vocational program offered through FCTC, I hope they are showing up at the campus tomorrow.”
The college does not require a high school degree and is geared towards preparing students to enter the work force.
“This week our focus is on operations, making sure we’re maintaining the safety and well-being of all employees on campus, all visitors coming there, all students. Next week we’re focusing on curricular and instructional situations, continuing to assess the programs,” Mittelstadt said. “The ones that are viable, [we are] making sure they have the immediate resources they need to continue servicing the students.”
Other members of the new leadership team will include Chris Force, current director of career and technical programs for the district, and Patrick Snodgrass, current director of purchasing. Force will lead instructional programs, while Snodgrass will oversee the operations and facilities department.