Sampson named shale academy director

STEUBENVILLE – Educator Eric Sampson has been named director of the Utica Shale Academy.

The academy is being offered statewide to students in grades nine through 12 under the auspices of the Jefferson County Educational Service Center.

The program formally begins on Aug. 19 at facilities lodged at Southern Local High School in Salineville in Columbiana County.

Sampson, whose career spans the past 15 years, has spent the past eight years serving as Southern Local’s health and physical education teacher. Two years ago, he was involved in the creation of the online health curriculum.

He said he was approached by school Superintendent John Wilson about leading the new initiative and was eager to help provide another valuable tool to prepare the work force of tomorrow.

“I got into education to have a positive impact on kids’ lives,” Sampson said. “Getting into shale, I understand how big it is. For kids who may not go to college and want to get to work right away, a lot of them can go straight out into the work force.”

He prepared for his new post by attending the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program held July 30-31 in Massillon.

“It’s for any high school teacher, but it’s tailored to science and math,” he explained, saying roughly 75 teachers attended. “We heard speakers and learned about the production of the wells. On the second day, we traveled around Stark County to the wells, gas processing plants and brine holding facilities.”

The Utica Shale Academy will be the focus of three upcoming events starting Thursday with an informational meeting set for 6:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. An open house slated to be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 14 in the cafeteria. A second informational session is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 4 in the cafeteria.

Chief Academic Officer Chuck Kokiko, who provides oversight to the academy through the JCESC, said about 24 students were registered, but recruitment is ongoing and class size is unlimited. He added that Sampson was a welcome addition to help the Utica Shale Academy meet its goals.

“We’re excited to have him on board. He is very enthusiastic and is going to be a good fit for the students. He’s also made a lot of connections within the industry. We’re excited to have him be the face of the school and we have high hopes and expectations for him,” Kokiko said.

He said the upcoming sessions were a means to explain what the school was about and to continue enrollment.

Kokiko said the Aug. 14 open house may also include representatives of local community colleges discussing post-secondary opportunities, while the Sept. 4 function intends to attract students who may be still undecided about their school choices.

The Utica Shale Academy is a conversion school sponsored by the JCESC that will offer more than 100 traditional high school courses, ranging from advanced placement to specialized classes focusing on the energy industry.

The tuition-free program provides for flexible scheduling and blended learning. Students must spend a majority of their time on campus, but may attend morning or afternoon classes on alternate days. It also has articulation agreements with Stark State and Eastern Gateway community colleges.

Coursework is recognized by the International Association of Drilling Contractors, which has been training the industry for more than 70 years, and officials are consulting with the Society of Petroleum Engineers for curriculum options. Students will be eligible for RigPass and other oil and gas-specific certifications so they can leave high school ready to enter the job market.

Information about the academy is available by contacting Sampson at (330) 679-8162 or Kokiko at (740) 283-3347; online at; or by e-mail at