Schools Will Soon
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
By this time next year, it may be more than just high-schoolers streaming in and out the doors of the Greene Technology Center.
The center, located on Hal Henard Road, is one step closer to becoming a satellite location for the Tennessee Technology Center (TTC) in Morristown, a status that would mean offering post-secondary programs for certification in industrial maintenance, machine tool, and welding.
On Friday, the Workforce Education (WE) Committee met in the Greene County Schools Central Office board room to update industry leaders and to brainstorm together on these developments.
Wayland Seaton, Greene County supervisor of high schools, led the committee, which aims to develop a closer partnership with area industries and businesses, and direct local education to equip students for local jobs.
The committee is comprised of individuals from the Greeneville and Greene County school systems, Walters State Community College (WSCC), the Greene County Partnership, and local industries.
This latest development toward TTC training availability in Greene County came as a result of committee members' recent tour of the TTC in Morristown, where Greene County students often are unable to attend due to a lengthy waiting list.
Greene County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk has noted that, unfortunately, there are currently no post-secondary institutions in Greene County at which students can receive technical training under federal scholarship funds such as the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant.
With a satellite TTC operating at the Greene Technology Center, however, that could all change, Kirk said.
"Right now we have a verbal agreement to bring welding, machining and industrial maintenance to the center for evening programming for adults," she explained.
"This is a very good thing because those programs qualify for Wilder-Naifeh and will qualify for [Federal Pell Grants].
"Students with [financial] need can attend at no cost to themselves with these scholarships -- and they get certified," she also noted.
Kirk explained that, although the satellite arrangement with the TTC in Morristown would not be a K-12 initiative, it is still important to the local school systems in that teachers, administrators and counselors can begin to prepare students for meeting the competencies necessary to complete their certifications.
The committee also expressed an interest in working with local industry to match the curriculum with the industries' needs.
Kirk estimated the program would get under way in July 2013 at the earliest, and next fall at the latest.
WORK TO BE DONE
"This was just a verbal agreement," noted Jerry Ayers, principal of the Greene Technology Center. "There's a lot of work to do before then."
Among the many details he said have not yet been settled are who will teach the courses and how the TTC will provide materials.
He said that he hopes to see the WE Committee present the idea to the Greeneville and Greene County school boards in January. The center will also need approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Ayers seemed pleased to hear from Seaton that the program will reportedly be able to select graduating seniors, other adults, and even current students to participate in the upcoming evening courses.
For current students, this would be a form of "dual enrollment," Ayers said, explaining that the students would be attending both the Greene Technology Center and the satellite TTC.
"We've been talking about this for two years," noted Tom Ferguson, president and CEO of the Greene County Partnership. "This is big."
It is hoped that this program, partnered with the committee's other recent work, will increase the number of students participating in technical programs, Seaton said.
He pointed out that, last year, only 4 to 8 percent of Greene County's students entered into a post-secondary technical program.
He estimated that this percentage should be closer to 25 to 30 percent.
In another effort to direct students into local, available jobs, the committee has been working to develop Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways.
Poster board-sized diagrams will go into the hallways of every school, depicting options along five separate career and technical education pathways.
Each pathway has a high school beginning, but shows how students can continue into advanced degrees, with career options and average salaries for whatever point in the path students may want to "get off" and start their career.
Five pathways should be complete within the next 30 days, according to Seaton.
* health and science;
* business and finance, and
* educational and professional services.
CHOSE A PATH
Seaton explained that the county school system's counseling program plans to introduce 16 "career clusters" to 6th-grade students and will then narrow the focus to the five pathways during 7th grade.
In 8th grade, each student will be asked to select two of the five pathways that may interest them.
In the last two weeks of class, once all testing is finished, he said the students may actually go on location to area businesses and industries that fit their pathway selections.
"It's related more to what's going on in the job market so we can prepare them for their careers -- so they can start making better choices," Seaton said.
Kirk noted that she hopes to have every student select a path in 9th grade, although she said their selection does not have to be final for the remainder of their four years.
"One of my concerns has been [that] 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds, they don't know what they want to do," said Greeneville Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud.
"They have to make these decisions, but it needs to continue to be fluid. They are going to change their minds.
"If we had an overriding document that showed how you can choose this path but once you start down that path, if it's not the one you want to stay on, that's OK.
"Some of the things you're doing there could also relate to this [path] over here if you change your mind.
"So that they don't feel that they're locked in."
Stroud said such a diagram could look similar to the current pathways, but include them all as interconnected.
NO ARTS PATHWAY -- YET
Kirk also acknowledged that it may also be necessary to develop a sixth pathway in the future for careers in the graphic arts and fine arts.
The pathway to such creative fields (such as writing, art, photography, theater) currently does not exist and may not be a part of the initial five that the system hopes to fully launch by the 2014-2015 school year, she said.
The five pathways currently under development encompass 94 percent of the jobs in the region, Kirk added.
The director also noted that the pathways can never encompass every career and will need to be individualized to meet every student's needs.
In addition to these programs, Kirk said that school counselors are also developing lists of courses to present to students along with Programs of Study to accompany their pathway selection.
The reason for the course lists, she explained, is to try to build a sense of "purpose for learning" for students.