Society changes have impacted education; ESD super reflects on career.

May 2, 2018

Society changes have impacted education; ESD super reflects on career.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

AMBER TOWNSHIP (Mason County) — On June 30 Randy Howes, superintendent of West Shore Educational Service District, will end his 46-year career in education when he retires, again. Over the years, Howes has seen many changes in education and society. Many of those changes have been for the better, but other changes have presented challenges that often stretch the scope of public education.

“On the positive side, there is an increased emphasis on raising the bar in having kids become more technically literate and to get additional education because of the changing world we are living in,” Howes says. “It used to be a student could graduate from high school and then go and get a good paying job in a local factory and live a nice middle class life. That started to change and now most jobs require additional training beyond high school. Education has to change along with those demands.”

Howes says while many students will continue to seek advanced degrees, there is a large segment of the population that is better served with vocational training, adding that the State of Michigan has put an emphasis on career and technical training, a service that the West Shore ESD has offered for many years. “We definitely need to view education as something that doesn’t end at grade 12. I think the world is changing fast enough and kids going through school are going to have to seek additional training.

“Secondary schools, technical centers, and community colleges need to step up to the plate to provide education and training for current jobs and future jobs. It’s unlikely that people are going to go through and finish their education and then go into the world of work and stay in the same position for the next 30 years.”

Howes says he is proud of the services that the ESD continues to offer in vocational training, along with its relationship with West Shore Community College.

“Career and technical education costs us $7,300 per student to take a half day course, which is paid for through a special millage. These are costly programs that require expensive equipment, expenses that most of our local schools could not afford to do on their own. Our relationship with the college allows us to share costs and provide a better, more efficient service to our students and taxpayers. We often share facilities and equipment with the college.”

Howes says the local schools also receive a benefit by sending their students to CTE because the local school still receives its average $7,500 per student, but only has to educate that child for half a day, meaning the money can be stretched farther as well.

While there are some positive changes in education, there are also challenges that the system did not face 40 years ago.

“Most of our challenges have to do with the changing family structure in our country,” Howes says. “We’ve seen a decline in the two-parent family. There are also challenges that come with the technical world. Kids are being raised more and more by other forms, such as the media, Internet, and television. It’s not uncommon for kids to come unprepared for school and I think educators face a challenge sometimes in not having the support of a student’s family. It used to be common that if a student got in trouble at school, the old saying was that he or she would be in twice as much trouble at home. Now, more often then not, the schools find a parent will come to the school and say the teacher did something wrong.

“I think the schools have found themselves having to take more responsibility to teaching children right from wrong, which are responsibilities that have traditionally fallen upon the family. Schools now need to teach children integrity, citizenship, and other universal values that we traditionally held as being so important.

“If kids aren’t learning these things at home then where are they going to learn? If they are not affiliated with a church or other positive community programs then the influence becomes the school’s responsibility. I wish it wasn’t like that. It’s certainly more of a welcome circumstance when families and schools are sharing that partnership. I’ve seen it happen over my career. We are seeing a higher percentage of kids in our schools where it is difficult to get that partnership. If kids and parents don’t have basic values of integrity, somewhere along the line as a society we have to step up to the plate. We have to create a model at the school of what we would like to see in society.”

Howes says he doesn’t see a change in society anytime soon.

“I think education is going to continue to face an uphill struggle with more and more kids who maybe don’t have the attitude of coming to school to learn. It is no longer just a matter of being able to teach the concepts and provide the materials and curriculum. It’s getting kids ready to receive it and I think that is the biggest challenge for education as we move forward”

As for Randy Howes, though, he plans to move away from education, at least for awhile. His career has taken him to some of the far reaches of the world. A native of Minnesota, he was a student teacher at the American School in London in 1972, following by his first teaching assignment at the American School in Kuwait in 1973, where he taught drama and music. He also taught in Geneva for a year. After earning a master’s degree in counseling, he moved

Howes then taught a year in Geneva, Switzerland before returning to Minnesota where he earned a master’s degree in counseling. In 1978, he moved to northwest Michigan and became the school counselor at Manistee Middle School for the next four years. He then moved with his wife to Lima, Peru, where he served two years at the American School as a counselor and two years as an assistant principal; his two children were born there as well.

Northwest Michigan called him back again and Howes took another counseling job at Manistee Area Public Schools. During that time he finished his administration credentials and then, in 1991, moved his family to Buenos Aires, Argentina where he served as a counselor, and later a principal, for the American School there.

In 1994, Howes returned to Manistee Middle School and served as principal for nine years and then became high school principal in 2003. In 2004 he became the superintendent of Baldwin Community Schools, serving until he retired in 2011.

Retirement didn’t last long and he was hired by the Mason-Lake Intermediate School District as its superintendent in 2012, where he oversaw the merger with the Oceana County Intermediate School District, which created the West Shore Educational Service District.

He says he and his wife now plan to spend time traveling and revisiting some of the places they lived throughout his career. He says he wants to spend time with his adult children and their families and also pursue his interest in the performing arts. “My first college degree was in theater and music. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my life in a variety of community performing arts programs and I would like to do more performing.”

Howes’ replacement is Dr. Jason Jeffrey, who has most recently served as assistant superintendent of the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District.

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