Captain Stephen Polk, MNI
Director, Maritime Education & Training
Captain Stephen Polk supervises SCI’s Center for Maritime Education. Before joining SCI, he was a Senior Port Captain for Kirby Inland Marine, LP and managed several types of inland towing vessels in the Canal Division. Captain Polk is a certified Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS) expert and holds a United States Coast Guard 3rd Mate Unlimited Tonnage, Oceans License. He also recently earned his Master of Towing Vessel and 300 ton Master-Oceans endorsement on his license.
A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Captain Polk served in the US Navy with two patrol boat units. As a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), he has worked in various leadership and supervisory roles such as Tactical Communications Officer, Training Department Head, and Operations Department Head for both of the patrol boat units he was assigned to. Captain Polk has also logged over 10,000 hours of tactical and underway command experience while protecting ports and performing escorts of MSC and Navy warships in and out of various harbors worldwide.
Captain Polk started in the maritime industry as an Able-Seaman (A.B.) for Polar Tankers and as a Third Mate and working in the TAPS trade moving crude oil from Valdez, AK to various ports along the west coast of the United States. He graduated from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1997 with a B.S. in Marine Transportation.
Captain Buddy Compton
Director of Inland Training–Paducah
As Director of Inland Training - Paducah, Captain Buddy Compton teams up with Captain Greg Menke and Dr. Jay Downs Siska to further develop and teach Advanced Pilothouse Management Training classes, as well as other courses at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY.
Captain Compton has worked in operations management for Ingram Barge Co. and Excell Marine Corp. He has served on several river industry navigation committees, including River Industry Action Committee, Lower Mississippi River Committee, and Illinois River Carrier’s Association. Over the years, Compton has received five United States Coast Guard Commendations, a United States Army Corps of Engineers Public Service Commendation and the Vice President Al Gore Hammer Award. He also coauthored the Upper Mississippi River Crisis Action Plan.
E-Learning & IT Specialist
Gerald Frentz brings a useful blend of experiences in education, computer networking, project management, marketing and the “blue water” navy. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, his tours included time on destroyers, submarines and naval support and training in Spain, Puerto Rico and several locations in California as part of the Seabees. With a Masters degree from Texas A&M University, Gerald created a new way of using simulators to model the behavior of certain types of offshore oil platforms. He has designed and supported several computer networks and was a VP of Engineering for a major fiber-optic networking, distance-learning and Internet services company.
Gerald recently managed a team of 36 math tutors as part of Houston Independent School District’s Apollo 20 program and teaches an evening course—using e-learning and classroom-based approaches—in Management Information Systems for Texas A&M–Galveston. In his free time, Gerald teaches, judges and competes in Taekwondo as a 6th Degree Black Belt Master Instructor and 4-Time World Champion.
Captain David T. Howell
Simulator Instructor & Business Developer
Having worked on the waters for three decades, and the majority of that time as a captain, David Howell brings wide-ranging experience and knowledge to his position as Simulator Instructor at SCI–Houston. A lead or senior captain for most of his career, Captain Howell also spent several years at John E. Graham & Sons, Mag Marine Service, Brown Water Marine, Bud’s Boat Rentals and North Bank Towing training and mentoring younger mariners. He most recently worked as Lead Captain at Buffalo Marine Service, where his leadership impacted the budding careers of many towboat crews.
With training in first aid, water survival and hazmat, Captain Howell holds a number of licenses and certifications, including US Coast Guard Master 200 Ton Near Coastal, US Coast Guard Master of Towing Vessels, Western Rivers and Inland Waters, and Unlimited Radar. He is a US Coast Guard Designated Examiner.
Dr. Jay Downs Siska, Ed.D.
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Dr. Jay Downs Siska, EdD joined the Seamen's Church Institute in Paducah as Director of Curriculum & Instruction in May 2006. Dr. Siska's responsibilities include developing curriculum for courses on leadership, Crew Endurance Management System (CEMS), situation awareness, and decision making. He recently revamped the Designated Examiner Course that is required under the new licensing rules and the Institute's Advanced Pilot House Management course.
Dr. Siska has completed the United States Coast Guard's CEMS expert training program. He received his Doctorate of Education from Florida State University and a Masters and Bachelors in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Hawai'i. Dr. Siska has 20 years of teaching experience from the middle school to college level. His wife, artist Char Downs, is part of Paducah's Artist Relocation Program.