RED OAK — Texas State Technical College will open an extension center in Red Oak this fall with the likelihood of a full branch to open in spring 2014 for all Ellis County residents.

Red Oak ISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Niven said the district reached out to State Representative Jim Pitts for assistance with the legislative process of bringing TSTC to ROISD.

“We currently work with Navarro for academic aspects, but we were looking to extend our career and technical classes beyond the high school level. We reached out to Jim Pitts and staff in Austin,” Niven said. “He suggested TSTC (Texas State Technical College) and arranged a meeting with the Chancellor (Mike Reeser) in Austin to discuss possibilities.”

Pitts also called on Senator Brian Birdwell to aid their mission in his sphere of influence with the state senate. From the beginning, Niven said their goal was to not only add career and technical education options to Red Oak ISD, but to work from that partnership to establish a college branch that could serve all Ellis County residents. The decision to pursue TSTC for this goal was clearly the best choice, Niven said.

“TSTC fits perfectly into this aspect and can help not only Red Oak students, but a multitude of people in the county,” he said. “I'm excited and believe that this offers a huge potential to our students, the county and everyone in this area. TSTC is one of the top institutions in the state for technical training and education, they have a great reputation among industries in the state and work well with businesses to meet their needs.”

This fall, ROISD will partner with TSTC to offer its high school students 88 dual credit hours in career and technical courses with the option of obtaining an associate degree through TSTC. The extension center, a satellite of the college's Marshall campus in East Texas, will occupy the available 30,000 square feet in ROISD's career tech building at the Red Oak Junior High School.

“I know that TSTC plans to initially offer our high school students 88 dual credit hours, with the option of obtaining an associate degree through TSTC. They have started hiring staff that will be at the location here in Red Oak,” Niven said. “Our ultimate goal is to have a facility on our current high school campus, which would require constructing a new building. However, that is something that would have to go through the state or if TSTC has some options.”

After establishing its extension center in Red Oak, TSTC administration will be reaching out to the other school districts in Ellis County to formulate partnerships on a district by district basis to meet their specific needs. Though those partnerships will not come into effect until Spring 2014.

“TSTC will work with each district to see what their individual needs are and work with each administration or board. I imagine that each partnership would look different for every district to meet their particular needs,” Niven said.

Through the entire process of working with Pitts' office, meeting with the TSTC chancellor and leadership, the hardest part was waiting to see if the legislation would be approved.

“Working with the TSTC folks, they were very goal-oriented and focused. Everyone was concentrated on the mindset of producing opportunities for students and people in Ellis County,” Niven said. “We were very fortunate to have Pitts and Birdwell shepherd us through the legislative process. After all the waiting for HB5 to go through, we were excited to start planning and getting things started up.”

Both the House and Senate approved the bill in May and Governor Rick Perry signed it into effect on June 10.