By Tim Thornberry
Alan Reed, superintendent of Adair County Public Schools is excited about where his district is going educationally and he gives a lot of credit to the high school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) wing.
Reed tells visitors to the district’s website that students will have more choices and opportunities than ever before with the opening of a new satellite technology campus of Lake Cumberland Area Technology Center (LCATC) and 39 career paths leading to industry certifications in health care occupations and welding/metal fabrication.
The 2014-15 school year marked the first for the satellite program and has brought about a heightened awareness of how valuable CTE programs can be to students and the community.
Three years ago Adair County was a traditional college-prep high school, Reed said. But when he started looking at data, it was very evident something needed to change.
“Having come from a business background myself, I realized from my own life that college-for-all is not where it’s at,” he said. “Had I not had other certifications along the way I would have probably starved a few times in my life.”
In addition to what he saw in the data coming from the state level, especially concerning college-and career-readiness (CCR) numbers, Reed said by chairing the Work Ready Committee in his county, he realized the positive connection CTE could make in getting the community moving forward in reaching Work Ready status.
The Kentucky Work Ready Communities initiative is a measure of a county’s workforce quality. Certification assures employers that a local workforce has the talent and skills necessary to staff existing jobs and to master the innovative technologies that new jobs will require.
“The big catalyst was the Work Ready Community project and it was apparent early on how it, the performance of the local school district and CCR dovetailed,” said Reed.
With the inclusion of the CCR measures implemented by the state through Senate Bill 1, many school districts began to see the relevance of CTE programs.
Phyllis Curry, Adair County’s instructional supervisor, said until a measure was available that would hold the district accountable, CTE was not looked at in the way it is now.
“Once we got the career measure, that sort of changed the whole complexion of everything,” she said.
The changes have sparked renewed interest and increased attendance at school-related events, like Parent Night, Reed said.
The school’s goal is to get every student at Adair County High into a career path and have them complete that path by graduation.
Reed said with the help of the Work Ready committee, some key partnerships were formed, grants were sought to help with funding and a massive public relations effort was put forth that has paid off with an immeasurable boost in community support.
But it was changing the perceived value of CTE and the students involved that really made a difference, he pointed out.
LCATC has long served the district’s students who wanted to attend, but the 25-minute bus ride to the center and the perception that students who went there were not college or employee material was a barrier for other students.
But Reed believes that the opening of the satellite program and the now heightened awareness of the value of CTE, Adair County may be setting the wave of the future.
“You probably can’t build whole career and tech schools because of budget constraints in most counties in Kentucky but you can build satellite campuses,” he said. “To do that, you have to tear down the geographical boundaries and remember there are only the students and they need help.”
Because of the new satellite program, Reed said the welding program went from about five students to 100 with a waiting list. The health program had a similar increase in numbers.
The investment in those programs is already seeing dividends. The Adair County welding fabrication team took first place at this year’s SkillsUSA-Kentucky State Conference, which qualifies them for the national event to be held in June.
Reed said the renewed energy found at Adair County High School is due in large part to new opportunities for the students.
“CTE has risen to be the apex; it’s the new cool,” he said.
Alan Reed firstname.lastname@example.org
Phyllis Curry email@example.com