04/05/11 — Vocational academy will open at Spring Creek High School

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Vocational academy will open at Spring Creek High School

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 5, 2011 1:46 PM

The Board of Education Monday night approved a new vocational academy at Spring Creek High School, along with a memorandum of understanding agreement with Wayne Community College to provide college level courses and faculty members to teach them.

The CTE Academy, targeting four areas of career and technical education -- building on the existing Microsoft Academy and blending in health occupations, agriculture and family and consumer sciences -- will be rolled out in three phases over three years.

Funded through a College Tech Prep grant, Spring Creek is one of 30 schools in the state chosen for the pilot program.

Principal Stephen Clingan explained that the academy will build upon the core courses -- English, math, history and science -- and allow students to follow a matrix of classes to achieve certifications and matriculate to community college and earn additional credits.

The school, which already boasts a strong agriculture program, would be able to link the program to the Microsoft IT academy so students could learn how seemingly unrelated businesses affect one another and the economy. Allied health and Microsoft would be a good fit, he said, as the field becomes more reliant upon technology applications and opens up opportunities in radiology and documentation and billing of electronic medical records.

Clingan described the link between other programs at the school, suggesting that Microsoft IT and family and consumer science would create awareness into job opportunities in food service industries, maintaining inventories and marketing website design. Likewise, agriculture education and family and consumer sciences cover "from the field to the table," he added.

"We would like to have them all connected, where the students can see how they are connected not only at the educational level but also later on," he said.

The memorandum of understanding with Wayne Community becomes effective July 1, with other partnerships being discussed with Mount Olive College, Lenoir Community College and N.C. A&T State University.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the program would be introduced this spring, with installation of a structure and students to begin planting a sustainable garden to be used for future phases.

Phase 2, in 2011-12, will be the addition of a heated shelter and plants and bushes, including a family and consumer science herb garden. Phase 3, in 2012-13, will feature installation of aquaculture tanks for raising fish, added gravel walks and remaining components of the project.

"The CTE academy looks to create intercurricular relationships, create partnerships with colleges and improve student capacity for employment through skill building," Clingan said. "We already had a Microsoft academy. We would like to move forward with an ag academy and family and consumer sciences academy and tie them all in."

Research into the CTE academy began months ago, and Chris Stewart, agriculture education teacher at Spring Creek, said there is already a lot of student interest in the program.

"We have had academies at many other high schools in Wayne County," Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, told the board. "Probably about five years ago when we learned about high school reform, this is the way we saw things going and met with high school principals and asked that they start working on high school reform and this is what's happening.

"This has been worked on for almost a year before it came together for us to bring to you."

Several board members readily favored the proposal.

"I think it's wonderful," said board member Rick Pridgen. "It's obvious your school has probably one of the best and most populated FFA chapters in the state and I can see the potential."

"I think from what I have heard and Mr. Clingan has put forth, they have put a sufficient amount of time into this," added board member Eddie Radford. "I think they are prepared to go ahead with this. Just like the other academies other high schools have done, it's helping quite a few kids."

But board member John Grantham said he had a problem with adding another vocational program in the district, citing the need to instead focus on core subjects.

"There's so many career fields that people can go into," he said. "To go into any of them they need a good background in the core courses. All the other stuff they can handle when they get (to college) ... I think there's going to be more instances, probably quite a few instances, where students are going to be going into these programs because they want to get out of the classroom."

Clingan said there are still a number of "must have" classes the state requires students to have in order to graduate, with room to still take elective courses.

"I'm looking at the courses that you offer," Radford said. "We have got kids now graduating in almost three years. I don't see where we're taking away from any of the core classes."

Clingan agreed, suggesting that such alternatives may even engage certain students longer, "add to the high school experience and keep students in school, which would obviously be beneficial to the dropout rate."

Board chairwoman Thelma Smith asked about the struggling students.

"I'd just like to hear you including a student who is not planing to go to college who's able to go into a job," she said.

"I think it suits them perfectly," Clingan said, "and focuses on those students that you just mentioned."

When put to a vote, the proposal passed but not unanimously, by a margin of 4-1 -- board member Arnold Flowers was absent and Grantham was opposed.