WOU in the news: Timing’s right for friends to open driving school

Duane Nault remembers when his son, Brian, needed to take driver’s education classes, it seemed like there was always a wait list at Shelton High School.

When it came time for Nault to contemplate a career change, he turned to his newly retired friend, Ted Drogmund, about embarking on an idea he’d bounced around for years — opening a private driving school in Shelton.

The friends, who’ve known each other since they attended Shelton High School themselves, opened Washington Driver Education Center 101, or WADEC 101, in Shelton this fall. The name is a play on the nearby US Highway 101 and on the name for introductory college classes.

“Our goal is to create a healthy learning environment,” Nault said. “We both want parents to feel safe when they bring their children here and we want them to know they are going to get quality lessons.”

Nault started researching the requirements to open a driver’s education school at least five years ago, but it wasn’t until he was laid off from his job at an alarm security firm in the Seattle area that he became available to pursue the idea.

Nault had worked at his prior company for 25 years, and he racked up miles and miles of driving experience at work, traveling up and down the I-5 corridor.

Drogmund has also had his fair share of driving experience and has seen the consequences of reckless driving through more than two decades with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

“When I retired from the sheriff’s office after 23 years, I got into the private sector doing background checks for employers, but it wasn’t really rewarding,” Drogmund said. “Anybody that’s had kids going through driver’s ed in Shelton has wanted to start this for some time.”

The partners co-own the business and completed 120 hours of training through Western Oregon University’s Traffic Safety Education course for instructors.

WADEC 101’s building and vehicles have been inspected and certified by the state, and the business has all the appropriate insurance and bonds required by the state.
The building and vehicles are also secured with video surveillance.

So far, the instructors have wrapped up one five-week class and started a second one this month. Students receive classroom instruction three days a week, for two hours at a time, and then spend an hour each week driving with the instructors on routes pre-approved by the state.

The students must also have at least one hour of instruction as a passenger in a vehicle to receive their certification at the end of the course.

“We live in the community and we all want safe drivers,” said Drogmund, who sometimes shares anecdotes with students about accidents he saw when he was as a police officer. “I spent a lot of years copping and saw some horrible things over the years.”

Nault and Drogmund provide their students with two options for each day of classroom instruction — students can either come straight after school, from 3 to 5 p.m., or come later in the evening for a class from 6 to 8 p.m.

“We both feel it’s important for the kids to be able to have the after-school experience with sports or clubs or a job, and however we can help with we want to do,” Drogmund said.

Each session costs $425 and includes a written and behind-the-wheel final exam, necessary to pass the class.

State licensing offices no longer offer written and practical driver’s tests; driver’s license applicants under age 18 must complete a driver’s education course, pass written and practical tests with a certified driving school and present the information to a licensing office.

WADEC 101 will begin to offer written tests and driving tests in the spring. The state requires a school to have a few sessions complete before it can be a licensed testing site.

Students who enroll at WADEC 101 now will be able to take their tests at the site in the spring at no additional cost.

While there is already another private driver’s education school in Shelton, Nault and Drogmund feel there’s enough business to go around.

“There are 15-year-olds born every day,” Nault said.

The long-time friends enjoy being in business together.

“When we have a disagreement, we work it out,” Drogmund said. “Our teaching styles complement each other. Our main goal is that the kids get the best instruction that we can give them.”

Washington Driver Education Center 101 is at 150 West William White Way in Shelton. For more information, call 360-229-6306 or visit wadec101.com.

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