The Joplin Board of Education on Tuesday delayed a decision on whether the district will join the new CAPS program at Missouri Southern State University.
With the unanimous vote, several board members said they wanted more time for the district to gauge student interest in participating in CAPS, or the Center for Advanced Professional Studies.
CAPS is a national model for collaboration among local school districts, higher education and industry. It offers high school students, typically juniors and seniors, the opportunity to see life on a college campus while working toward a professional goal in local industry.
Missouri Southern’s CAPS program will begin in August 2022. Three fields of focus for courses have been identified as health sciences, human services and business/entrepreneurship, the university said. Participating students can receive up to three credit hours at MSSU per semester.
The Joplin district would be allotted 59 seats for students in the CAPS program. At a cost of $2,498 per student, that would cost the district $147,382 per year — a fee that would have to be paid regardless of whether all 59 seats are filled. Administrators have said they don’t expect all 59 seats to be filled during the first year.
Several board members said Tuesday they were concerned that the district would be required to pay that amount of money, even if 59 students from Joplin don’t enroll.
“It’s obviously a great program,” board member Brent Jordan said. “It’s going to benefit our kids; it’s going to benefit our community. The problem is we’re guaranteeing that we’re going to pay for 59 kids (no matter what). That’s one of my large hangups.”
Board member Derek Gander echoed that sentiment. He said he wanted more information about how many Joplin students might be interested in enrolling in CAPS next year before committing the funds.
“I want the best for our students, don’t get me wrong, but I have an issue with the money,” he said.
Despite the concerns that were voiced, board members said they support the program and its ability to give high school students firsthand experience with career paths.
Board member Michael Joseph said the program could help high school students prevent a regret that many college students and graduates end up feeling: like they had picked the wrong major.
“What better opportunity to go in a mentorship and find out what they really are interested in so later in life they succeed,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many students that I see go through college and flounder around because they never really found what they were looking for. This gives these students, our students, the opportunity to pursue different areas and find their passion.”
The district has said a number of area businesses have expressed an interest in working with MOSO CAPS students. They include Freeman Health System, Mercy Hospital Joplin, Liberty, Arvest Bank, People’s Bank of Seneca, Cardinal Scale, Crossland Construction Co. and Edward Jones Investments, according to information previously provided to the board.
“I think that in terms of the community aspect and what we do as a district, we’re seeing an opportunity to partner with our community, and I struggle to shut the door on Joplin like that,” board member Rylee Hartwell said.
Kerry Sachetta, assistant superintendent of operations and former principal of Joplin High School, noted that career exploration was intended to be a significant focus of the new high school when it was rebuilt after the May 2011 tornado.
“This (CAPS program) fits perfectly with the current and past mission statement of the school,” he said. “In 2014, we were trying to do something very similar to this (by employing career pathway coordinators), but we didn’t have a college component to it. … I really do think it complements what the school was put together for extremely well.”
The vote on the CAPS program was tabled until the December meeting.
Board members directed administrators to begin promoting the program, in collaboration with Missouri Southern, to prospective students. They also asked administrators to survey prospective students or otherwise gauge their interest to get a better sense of how many might enroll next fall.
Board members also asked whether the number of seats allocated to Joplin could be adjusted in order to lower the cost to the district.
Brad Hodson, executive vice president at Missouri Southern, said that could be possible. If that were to happen, the university would offer the remaining seats to other school districts at the same price, he said.