Creating culture: First Lycoming Career and Technology Center director retires – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Nov 1, 2021
MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Eric Butler, director of the Lycoming Career and Technology Center.
HUGHESVILLE — After 15 years as its director, Eric Butler has retired from his post at Lycoming Career and Technology Center; his last day with the school was Friday. Butler’s replacement, Nathan Minium, will assume his duties in January.
When Butler arrived at Lyco CTC, all the programs, which had been located in various school buildings as part of the Career Consortium, were being moved to one location — a newly constructed building on the East Lycoming School District campus, which the technology center leases from the district.
“When I came in, the building was finished during the year of 2006-07. The neat thing was — almost nobody else in the state has ever gotten to do — I walked into a basically new school district,” Butler said.
“I was brought in to develop the school culture, improve test scores and stay within budget. That was the really the cool part, I got to do what nobody else gets to do, which is walk in and create a school culture. Every school has a different culture…That was cool, very cool,” he said.
At that point, there were no systems in place to deal with the students who would now be in one building, Butler admitted.
“How do you do attendance in one location? As far down as bathroom passes, signing in and signing out. Those are the mundane type of things,” he said.
“When they say there was nothing, it was literally starting at that level and building it up,” he added.
At that time he had to work with four member districts who remained after the consortium. Today there are five member districts.
Although another automotive section was added during his tenure, the main emphasis has been on modernizing the program. Butler noted that because of its location Lyco, they need to prepare students to do a variety of things.
“Our employers are looking for people who can do a little bit of everything,” he added. “That is kind of the theme across all of our programs.”
When he came to Lyco, his background was not in technical education, Butler admitted.
“I am a total convert to career tech ed. I was an education snob. Honestly, when I was in high school it wasn’t really offered to me. They never talked to us about it, we never knew about it. I didn’t know,” he said.
“I just kind of fell into this thing. It’s so cool. This is the coolest thing in education. I’m a social studies guy. I have almost no technical skills. Just to see what kids do every day. You walk into a classroom — wow, this is so cool,” he said. “It’s so cool and so relevant.”
Rather than students learning abstract math skills that they might never use, Butler said that students at the technical school learn how to apply what they learn to real life situations.
“Here all those things that you learn, they actually apply. In construction, if you can’t figure out geometry to do a roof slope, you screw up your job and the customer’s not happy and you lose money,” he said.
“It’s cool because the kids see the relevancy of what they’re learning, both academically and the hands-on skills,” he said.
Enrollment is up at Lyco, something Butler attributed to the sending schools. Citing support from district administrations as well as school boards, Butler said that they understand that technical education can lead to jobs that pay well, especially in this area of the state where there are a lot of skilled labor jobs.
Because funding for the program comes from local taxes, Butler said that his ultimate mission has been, “happy local taxpayers.”
“I don’t mean people who are paying taxes today. So many of our kids stay here. They want to stay in this area. That’s a huge problem for our local companies to get someone to move here…so having a trained workforce that actually wants to be here is important, so that’s kind of where we’ve put our emphasis,” he said.
“Those are the people that are going to be the middle class here, they’re going to live in these districts, pay taxes, sit on school boards and be your town councilmen and volunteer firemen, the things our community needs to succeed,” Butler added.
Butler summarized his feelings about his time at Lyco CTC — “Great kids. Great staff. Great support. Honestly, it’s a great place.”
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