Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to visit Toledo


U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will visit Toledo on Monday to observe how Penta Career Center — a public vocational high school and adult education center — partners with local organizations to educate students of all ages.

Ron Matter, superintendent of Penta Career Center, said Department of Education staff members contacted him last week about a VIP visit to Penta facilities, explaining to him that U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) had suggested that Ms. DeVos visit Northwest Ohio to see what Penta was doing with adult career-tech training programming. 

“We’re really honored Senator Portman would single out Penta Career Center,” Mr. Matter said. “It speaks volumes about the quality of work we’re doing in career tech training.”

During her trip, Ms. DeVos will tour the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility to survey the high school equivalency classes that Penta provides to inmates. There, Penta will highlight a soon-to-launch pilot program called Working Together to Heal.

The program, which is an agreement among the city, Lucas County Common Pleas Court, the treatment facility, the correctional treatment facility, Mercy Health, and Penta, will allow nonviolent male inmates at the facility to work under staff supervision to clear alleys of brush and debris and beautify neighborhoods, earning $7.25 an hour to pay down court costs and fines. 

Ms. DeVos will then travel to Perrysburg to tour Penta’s headquarters with school leadership, instructors, and adult students to learn more about what Penta is doing in terms of career education for adults.

The tour will include visits to some of the labs within Penta’s high school, such as an advanced manufacturing lab and the culinary connection classroom, where Jim Rhegness, junior culinary instructor at Penta, will prepare a lunch with Penta students for the people participating in the roundtable discussion with Penta staff and students, as well as business and community stakeholders after the tour. 

Mr. Matter said he hopes Ms. DeVos’ visit will not only further a conversation about adult career education, but also inspire Ms. DeVos or one of her representatives to visit Penta again during the school year to learn more about Penta’s work force training for high school students. 

This is Ms. DeVos’ second official visit to Northwest Ohio since she was sworn in as education secretary in February, 2017. A Michigan native, Ms. DeVos toured Van Wert City Schools in April, 2017, alongside Randi Weingarten, leader of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers and one of Ms. DeVos’ most ardent critics. 

Ms. DeVos — a billionaire Republican donor with little experience in public education — remains one of the most polarizing figures in President Donald Trump’s Administration.

The nomination of Ms. DeVos, who has devoted much of her life to promoting charter schools and vouchers — which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious, and for-profit schools — received wide condemnation from many educators, who argued Ms. DeVos was not qualified to take the helm of the U.S. education system’s nearly 100,000 public schools. 

Contact Adelaide Feibel at afeibel@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @AddyFeibel.


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