Shale school names director, opens Sept. 3

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Eric Sampson has been tapped as the director of the Utica Shale Academy, which will open its doors on Sept. 3.

The academy is being offered to students in grades 9 through 12 under the direction of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center. It will be housed at Southern Local High School in Salineville in Columbiana County.

Sampson, whose career spans over the past 15 years, has spent the past eight serving as Southern Local School District’s health and physical education teacher. Two years ago, he also was involved in the creation of the district’s online health curriculum. He said he was approached by school Superintendent John Wilson about leading the new initiative.

“I got into education to have a positive impact on kids’ lives,” Sampson said in a news release. “Getting into shale, I understand how big it is. For kids who may not go to college and want to get to work right away, a lot of them can go straight out into the workforce.”

He prepared for his new post by attending the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program held last week in Massillon.

“It’s for any high school teacher but it’s tailored to science and math,” he explained, saying roughly 75 teachers attended. “We heard speakers and learned about the production of the wells. On the second day, we traveled around Stark County to the wells, gas processing plants and brine holding facilities.”

The Utica Shale Academy will hold an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria. A second informational session is set for Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Chuck Kokiko, who provides oversight to the academy through the JCESC, said about 24 students were registered for the program, but recruitment is ongoing and class size is unlimited.

Dr. Kokiko said the open house may also include representatives of local community colleges discussing post-secondary opportunities, while the Sept. 4 function intends to attract students who may be still undecided about their school choices.

The Utica Shale Academy is a conversion school sponsored by the Jefferson County Educational Service Center that will offer more than 100 traditional high school courses, ranging from advanced placement to specialized classes focusing on the energy industry. The tuition-free program also provides for flexible scheduling and blended learning.

Students must spend a majority of their time on campus but may attend morning or afternoon classes on alternate days. It also has articulations agreements with Stark State and Eastern Gateway Community College, meaning students could earn college credit while in high school and create an accelerated tract to earn certificates and associate degrees at Stark State.

Coursework is recognized by the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), which has been training the industry for more than 70 years, and officials are also consulting with the Society of Petroleum Engineers for curriculum options. Students will be eligible for RigPass and other oil and gas-specific certifications so they can leave high school ready to enter the job market.

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