The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Auto Shop May Not be Offered in the 2015-16 year: District Cites Low Enrollment and Loss of Funding

Since the beginning of the school year, the Mountain View Los Altos (MVLA) administration and the school administration have been discussing whether or not the Automotive Technology (Auto Shop) class will return next year. The debate centers around the rising costs, loss of state funding and low enrollment in the Auto Shop classes.
Students in the program emphasize that the class is another type of science class, with students learning and practicing technology and critical thinking in a more hands-on setting. According to junior Aaron Mehan, this is something that outsiders to the program don’t always understand.
“[Outsiders are] asking about engineering and mechanical and science, which is right in front of them,” Mehan said. “They basically think we’re putting nuts and bolts together, but we’re actually engineering things to do and work with [automobiles].”
There are many advocates for Auto Shop. Principal Wynne Satterwhite has supported vocational classes since she came to the school.
“Classes like Auto Shop, culinary, computer programming classes…are different ways of learning, and I think that not all students learn out of books,” Satterwhite said. “A lot of students learn with their hands, so I like the idea of vocational courses. I think they’re really powerful.”
Assistant Principal Suzanne Woolfolk agrees that the program provides lifelong skills for students that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to explore.
“You can’t really learn those skills anywhere else,” Woolfolk said. “Kids rarely are going to take a class in college even if it’s offered, so if they don’t learn [these skills] in their auto shop in high school, I don’t know how else they are going to know how to take care of themselves and their cars.”
However, MVLA administrators cite waning enrollment numbers and budget cuts as reasons that the program is no longer as practical as before.
“Back in 2010, there were four sections of Auto Shop at Los Altos, with a total of 64 students enrolled,” Associate Superintendent Brigitte Sarraf said. “A year later, Los Altos offered three sections with only 46 students enrolled. Last year, the number of sections [was] reduced to two sections which served a total of 41 students. The continual decline in demand is what caused the reduction in the number of sections.”
According to Sarraf, cuts in state funding, which amounts to around over $500,000 lost in general funding, is causing the district to reconsider offering vocational courses like Auto Shop. In addition to Auto shop, the administration is looking at the feasibility of other vocational programs that are currently offered at the school.
“There could well be other programs [that might be cut],” Sarraf said. “The changes [in course offerings] will be based on student demand for courses that offer the best preparation for employment in the 21st century.”
She believes that upgrading the Auto Shop to a modern standard would be very expensive, costing anywhere between $800,000 and $1 million. Sarraf was also concerned with the relevance of Auto Shop in the context of modern technology and applicability to the current job market.
“It really is an issue of trying to figure out which CTE programs are the most helpful to students,” Sarraf said. “To sustain a program that does not prepare students for jobs in the industry is not a viable option.  To outfit the Auto Shop with state-of-the-art equipment that is consistent with industry standards would be prohibitively expensive.”
Satterwhite’s main concern with sustaining Auto Shop is keeping up with the auto industry’s rapidly changing technology.
“The thing that I see with Auto Shop is we can teach how do wheels turn and why does a crank shaft work and what is a kingpin and all those types of terms, but quite frankly, cars today don’t have kingpins and drive trains are a thing of the past and what’s the difference between front wheel drive and rear wheel drive,” Satterwhite said. “Now we have all wheel drive, and at some point even those are going to go away.”
Discussion between the school and the MVLA administration about continuing vocational courses at the school began in mid-October and will extend until December, when a final decision will be made about which courses will be offered next year. The school will work with district administrators to gather data about each course and the demand for them based on student course requests. They will then propose a recommended course list for next school year to the school board, which will make the final decision.
As of The Talon’s press deadline, Sarraf has not received any public feedback about the decision to offer Auto Shop next year. She states that the decision will depend on a number of factors.
“Like all classes, the decision to offer Auto Shop will be made based on student demand and what is affordable,” Sarraf said. “The MVLA school board is the ultimate determiner of our curriculum. The board, however, will take a close look at staff recommendations that are based on changes in enrollment patterns and the cost associated with maintaining a program.”

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  • Seth Ellerin | Aug 5, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    During my time at Los Altos High School, I had a blast and left with the understanding of how to learn something. (the basics of high school, in my opinion, it teaches you how to learn) . Of all the classes I took, auto shop had the biggest impact on my life. During my senior year of high school I suffered a traumatic loss of a family member. I couldn’t think about going on to college and barely graduated from Los Altos High, not because I got bad grades but because I just couldn’t go back for a long time. It’s my understanding now that college isn’t for everybody and sometimes it’s a skilled trade that is better suited for specific individuals. (not every kid can become a doctor or lawyer or the next Elon Musk) The only reason I went to an automotive trade school after High School was because of my time spent at the auto shop class Greg Eli taught. I knew a little bit about cars before going to his class and I came out with a better understanding of life and who I am. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have graduated at the top of my class at trade school and moved on to being a Porsche technician at the top of my field if it weren’t for taking auto shop in high school. It’s a Life Enrichment class that by no means should be cut from the curriculum.

  • Mitchell Parsons | Nov 7, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I am a Mountain View high graduate from the class of 2009, and a Los Altos High Auto Tech alumni.
    When first hearing that the threat of Auto Tech closing was coming close to fruition I was startled. It was to me, as it was to many, a success as a learning experience. Through Auto Tech I was able to attain the necessary problem solving experience and skills to “diagnose” any problem in any situation. Not just limiting me to a level of critical thinking that will only be utilized in the Automotive world. Proof of this fact is it allowed me to attain a position as an Executive Assistant/Project Manager for three years. The project management and time management skills attained from this course were essential to my success in this position, or any for that matter. From then I moved on to a incredibly successful employment in the Performance Automotive Industry where the business I manage currently still holds world records! (Fastest BMW’s on the planet. NO BIG DEAL…) And that profession and success story needs no explanation for what skills were utilized and where they were attained… But most importantly, the point that will be made over and over again, is the closure of this course shuts the door to the largest backbone industry in the world! Automotive transportation and transportation in general. There is not an item in existence that has not been in some way shape or form touched by an automobile. Truck freight is and forever will be the number one method of transportation of goods in the world. Just between UPS and Fedex (Ground and freight only!) they have 43.5 Billion dollars in revenue. And every single one of those trucks and vans in their fleet needs to be repaired and serviced at an aggressive interval due to the lengths they travel and hard life. That, in of it self, is an automotive repair industry, just between those two companies. That’s just commercial! And as for passenger vehicles, there are 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles in the USA alone as of 2007. A statistic found via the Department Of Transportation. Every single one of those vehicles will be serviced by a professional at some point in their running lives. It will and and always will be one of the most dominant industries in existence. And by removing this course from the curriculum, it is essentially cutting off the route to a solid and exponentially growing professional world of automotive. But even more importantly, eliminating an environment for children to learn useful and real world skills in an setting that does not limit itself to the constraints of a traditional classroom is unacceptable. But the issue at hand is that the budget cuts are requiring that some courses be reduced or even closed. The point I am trying to make is that the Auto Tech program is too important of a course to lose for our future and current children’s sake.

    Please don’t let it go!

  • Dave Zander | Nov 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    We need Auto Shop to stay! I have been long term friends with Greg Ely since I graduated in ’96. I learned more from him than standard curriculum! Etiquette, respect, real life growth, safety and teamwork. It is not just a class. It is a way to grow as a person and a way to be capable of helping others in need, may it be car trouble or how to be a good person to yourself and others. I was invited to learn and grow even though the class was full and took woodshed. I spent time outside of my schedule to help and learn. Greg always was like a friend who welcomed anyone in any state a place to feel safe. May it be a student with bad grades, or bad parents. He has been there to help and guide all who are are in need, or have the desire to learn or decompress! It is not just Shop! He has helped so so many youngsters find their path, and comfort in life. Over and over, even those who never got involved with the class! Greg is not another teacher, he is a counselor and a resource to a majority of our students in Los Altos! I beg for the continuance of this course for the well being of this generation! He has saved lives, family’s, and futures for many!!! From my heart, I would do anything for him on a dime, no joke!

  • Alden | Nov 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    “The thing that I see with Auto Shop is we can teach how do wheels turn and why does a crank shaft work and what is a kingpin and all those types of terms, but quite frankly, cars today don’t have kingpins and drive trains are a thing of the past and what’s the difference between front wheel drive and rear wheel drive,” Satterwhite said. “Now we have all wheel drive, and at some point even those are going to go away.”

    This shows the principal has no idea about anything having to do with cars.
    Fact, Rear wheel drive is still a thing (the BMW 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 series, the Mercedes benz E and S class (not 4matic), the tesla Model S for example)

    Fact, front wheel drive is still a thing (the MB CLA, the Honda Civic, The Toyota corolla are all great examples).

    Fact, All Wheel drive is still a thing (all subarus and the tesla model D for example)

    Fact, as long as cars have wheels, some wheels will be driven.

    Sure king pins aren’t a thing anymore but mcpherson strut, tie rod ends, and rack and pinion aren’t new and haven’t really changed.

    Sounds like this class has a lot to offer people, yes it might not train people to go out and become mechanics, but it gives them a starting point.

  • Sandra Lopez | Nov 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I’m a parent of a student who graduated back in 2004. She had ADHD and Bipolar Syndrome. The Auto Shop class, which she attended for 3 years was helpful with her Social skills, interactions with others, understanding the fundamentals of automotive technology, proper utilization of automotive tools that she became so proficient in one said tire changing station to teach others. She became confident enough to go to community college and beyond.