A look of joy spread across the face of Hays High senior Vanessa Ramirez Friday when she finally straightened the knots out of the hair of a mannequin’s head.
Completing the task, as arduous as it was, took time and a little elbow grease. The effort was well worth it.
By finishing the assignment, Ramirez moved a step closer to earning her cosmetology certification offered by Hays CISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. It got her that much closer to her dream of possibly opening her own brand of hair salons.
But with rumors swirling over the possibility of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) eliminating the certification aspect from high school cosmetology programs, students and staff in the CTE worry the move could negatively impact high school students and cut short their dreams.
Suzi Mitchell, Hays CISD CTE director, said the TEA is working to finalize its list of CTE programs that are able to offer a certification through the new A-F accountability system. Cosmetology, however, is not on the preliminary list of approved certifications for the next two school years. The TEA plans to finalize its list later this fall.
Mitchell said the reason stems from a TEA study that showed cosmetology jobs fell below an annual $35,000 median salary, which was required for certification.
Mitchell, who kick-started the cosmetology program several years ago, said it was “very upsetting” when she learned of the TEA’s plans for cosmetology. Mitchell said she is asking for data that shows students who work in the cosmetology industry make more than the state’s required median salary.
Gabriel Lopez, teacher at the Hair by Hays salon at Hays High, said his own personal experience in the industry shows those who work in salons often face different pay scales.
The more a person works, the more a person can make in the industry, Lopez said. He was ultimately “surprised” the TEA is considering removing cosmetology from its list of certifications; he also believed assessing a program’s effectiveness just by salary was not an accurate assessment.
Mitchell and Lopez, as well as Betty Morales, teacher at the Lobo Looks salon at Lehman High, all agree benefits of Hays CISD’s cosmetology program go beyond just setting students up for a career.
Students who go through the cosmetology program, which includes all aspects of the salon industry ranging from hair-dressing to nails, must complete 1,000 hours of course work in order to obtain their certification.
There are currently 345 students at both Hays and Lehman high schools who are a part of the cosmetology program; students pay $475 for the program, which was recently expanded to include sophomores.
Morales said the certification allows students the chance to obtain a job in the salon industry straight out of high school. What students learn in Hays CISD’s cosmetology program is equivalent to spending $15,000 to $20,000 at a private beauty school.
“It was very upsetting because after certifying so many students, you just can’t imagine what is going to happen with them in the future,” Morales said.
For some students, attending cosmetology classes might be the only motivator for them to stay in school. Morales said she has overheard students claim they wouldn’t be at Lehman, or graduate, if it wasn’t for the cosmetology program.
Hays High senior Fernanda Rodriguez also believes the program keeps students on track for graduation. However, losing the certification would mean letting go of an opportunity to get ahead in the industry, Rodriguez said.
Roslyn Stallings, a Hays High senior who’s been a part of the cosmetology program for two years, said students who go through the program learn more than just fixing hair. Students learn about chemistry, biology and social skills, which are needed for work in the industry.
Stallings also believes losing the certification aspect would have an impact on young people.
“Everyone else starts to do cosmetology after they graduate,” Stallings said. “This gives us experience we need so we can come out of high school and learn more on top of what we already know.”
Hays CISD officials, however, don’t plan to cut the cosmetology program, even if it loses certification. Mitchell said numerous other CTE programs, such as culinary arts and firefighting, do not offer certifications.
“This is my baby and I am going to fight tooth and nail to make sure we don’t lose our program,” Mitchell said. “We have too many students who are benefitting from this class.”