05/14/07 — Career-targeted choices available at high schools

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Career-targeted choices available at high schools

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 14, 2007 1:45 PM

Area high schools will take a more focused approach to course offerings in the fall, particularly for ninth-graders and those who are uncertain if college is in their future.

Principals have worked with school improvement teams and district officials this year studying high school reform efforts across the state and nation. Each school submitted plans that have been approved by the school board and will be implemented in the fall.

The whole idea of the reform is smaller school learning academies, said Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Wayne County Public Schools.

Charles B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne, Rosewood, Southern Wayne and Spring Creek high schools will add Freshman Academies this year, joining Goldsboro High.

Rosewood principal David Lewis described the Freshman Academy as "a concept more than a program to follow ... a conscious effort to help kids make a smoother transition from middle school to high school. It really looks a lot like the middle school as far as keeping kids together."

In practice, it translates to more of a "family atmosphere," Lewis said, with ninth-grade students and teachers in close proximity.

Goldsboro High principal Patricia Burden said it has already proven successful at her school.

"Students are very pleased with the academy," she said. "They get more individualized help; class sizes are smaller. Coming from two (middle) schools, they also had the opportunity to know one another."

The school has already seen some reduction in disciplinary problems, Ms. Burden noted. And, in terms of graduation requirements, educators communicating with students and the ability to develop relationships have worked out well, she added.

Other specialized programs will also be introduced in the coming school year, primarily in the areas of business, finance, health science and engineering.

Career academies in business will be offered at Charles B. Aycock, Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne.

Eastern Wayne principal Gene Byrd said applications are being being taken and parent information nights have been held.

"We anticipate 20 ninth-graders" in the fall, he said, with plans for eventual expansion and graduates to also receive a certificate from Wayne Community College.

Charles B. Aycock principal Eddie Radford said teachers have already been secured for the business and finance schools and the Academy of Engineering. The school is excited about the "small community concept" within a large high school, he said, and hopes over the next two years to add four additional academies -- hospitality (culinary arts and marketing), health sciences, trades and industry and agricultural engineering.

Another area that is growing in popularity is auto mechanics, he added.

"We want to do an ag-engineering program, small machines and engines," he said.

Southern Wayne will have such a program, through its Academy of Diesel Mechanics, which principal Tim Harrell said he hopes to build on year after year. The school will also offer a yearlong reading and English class at the ninth-grade level through Johns Hopkins called the "Adolescent Literacy Project."

Spring Creek was initially not included, but has since added a career academy in allied health. Though in the initial stages, principal Steve Clingan said he feels students "will benefit from their experiences and knowledge as they go through this."

The two newest high schools -- Wayne Early/Middle College, launched this year at Wayne Community College, and the Wayne School of Engineering, opening in the fall at Goldsboro High School -- also offer early college courses and the School of Engineering features project-based learning.

School board member Rick Pridgen, chairman of the curriculum and instruction committee, called the proposed academies "an answer to what the community was asking for" at a recent public forum held at Lane Tree Conference Center. Several parents commented about the need for business and vocational training.

"I think this could be one of the first steps. ... I think it will make the whole community better in the long run," he said.

"Some students might not be four-year college-bound. Some of these students that go through these health occupations courses get out and will make $50,000 a year. I think that's a pretty noble profession."