A local mechanic is mobilizing to help the students in San Clemente High School’s Auto Academy, who are currently without a teacher and without access to the auto shop.
“Our industry needs well trained technicians, so to have this happen creates the potential to lose great technicians,” Smith said.
San Clemente’s Auto Academy is a special, three-year program that gets additional funding from the state. It currently serves 83 students.
Illicit body work left a coat of dust with some lead all over the classroom. Officials at the Capistrano Unified School District estimate it may take up to 15 days and $75,000 to clean it up.
Meanwhile, both the academy’s teacher and an interim replacement have quit, leaving the students watching nature videos with a string of substitutes.
With many family members also teachers at Capo Unified, Smith just knew he had to do something.
Fortunately, Smith is not just an auto mechanic but an auto mechanic with connections. An active member of the Society of Automobile Engineers who was recently honored with an international award, Smith got on the horn with fellow members of the Service Technology Program Committee on which he serves.
“These are people in the top positions in the industry. Well, the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation jumped right in,” Smith said. The foundation’s sole purpose is to “improve the quality of automotive technician training programs nationwide at secondary and post-secondary, public and proprietary schools,” according to its website.
“NATEF is the industry elite for auto training,” Smith said. “NATEF has a wide selection of trainers that can jump in with the emergency California teaching credentials.”
Smith approached San Clemente High Principal Michael Halt, who seemed thankful. A spokesman for the Capistrano Unified School District has not yet gotten back with comment.
Smith also reached out to the South Coast Regional Occupational Program (formerly the Capistrano Laguna ROP) which has been trying to get the program NATEF-approved, he said. An ROP spokeswoman was unavailable.
“I have a lot of ties to the industry as well as CUSD. So as soon as I read your article, all I could think was, ‘this has to be fixed,’” Smith said.
Correspondence between Smith and various officials confirm his efforts.
NATEF is searching for possible permanent teachers and helping line up guest speakers. Smith is hoping to be one of those guest speakers and serve on an advisory committee overseeing auto program instructors for the ROP.
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