Not Just Diplomas

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Governor Robert McDonnell has recognized February as Career and Technical Education Month (CTE) in Virginia. During the Cumberland School Board's February 11 meeting the high school highlighted both its current and future career offerings for students.

Assistant High School Principal Cora Tolliver and William Kinney, chair of the career and technical education department, presented on career and technical education programming at Cumberland High School during the meeting. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amy Griffin went on to tell the board about the development of a regional Health Science Academy that will expand the high school's current career offerings.

Tolliver said that Cumberland Public Schools were excited about CTE because, “we know firsthand that it works, based on our many successful graduates.”

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Kinney spoke very enthusiastically of how the CTE program was going at Cumberland High School. He said, “When we have other school divisions calling Cumberland here, wanting to send their teachers here to see how we're teaching them (the students). That means a lot.”

Kinney was thankful for the support of the board and administration and pointed out that CTE teachers “are a different breed of person…I'm a different breed of person… I'm here to teach the kids. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don't. But, when they get out of here, they've got a trade and they know what to do.”

Currently, the high school offers courses in business and information technology, family and consumer sciences, health and medical sciences, Junior ROTC, technology education, trade and industry, and green technology and sustainability. Through some of these programs, “students may earn industry credentials through passing industry certification exams proving professional skill level and preparation for career-related responsibilities and/or post-secondary education,” according to the board packet.

The career and technical organizations currently at Cumberland High School include: Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; Skills USA; Future Business Leaders of America; Health Occupations Students of America. A new addition to the CTE offerings, Tolliver pointed out, are the sustainability and renewable technologies related courses.

During the month of February, sponsoring teachers of the above organizations and students set up tables during lunches to promote their courses, according to Tolliver.

Tolliver handed out gift bags to the board members, filled with items created or envisioned by CTE students. Bags included a Duke's shirt from the school store run by business students; a complete planting kit put together by sustainability students; candy bars featuring the board members on the wrapper designed by design multimedia students; a care package put together by the nurse aides; and smores-in-a-jar from culinary arts students.

Kinney then presented a special gift for Dr. Griffin from the building trades students, a mantel clock which they built.

During the board meeting, Dr. Griffin also presented information about the development of a regional Health Science Academy. Cumberland was awarded a grant, in collaboration with Southside Virginia Community College, in the amount of $10,000 to begin planning for the academy.

The Health Science Academy would, “provide training in therapeutic services, health informatics, diagnostic services, support services and biotechnology research and development,” according to information in the board packet.

Initially, students could specialize in such topics as respiratory therapy, therapeutic massage and health records coding. Long term, the academy also plans to offer specialization in diagnostic services, support services and biotechnology research and development.

Students involved in the program would take pre-requisite courses their junior year and attend Southside Virginia Community College for a half-day program their senior year.

According to the timeline submitted to the board, an implementation plan will be submitted to the Virginia Department of Education in April. The school plans to begin recruiting students for the program in May. Most of the grant funds will go toward recruitment materials, according to Dr. Griffin.

If all goes according to plan, seniors will be able to begin taking classes at Southside Virginia Community College during the 2014/2015 school year.

Dr. Griffin said that there will be a cost for the program in about two years, associated with the courses at the community college; however, the school is working closely with the Governor's School and SVCC to make the cost as minimal as possible.

She hopes to have a minimum of three students enrolled in the program from Cumberland and each other school in the region.

Chairman Ginger Sanderson, District One, commented that she was excited about the program because it was offering students a career when they leave high school

Other Information

Dr. Griffin reviewed the school budget with the board. For more information on the superintendents proposed school budget, see the article “School Board Discusses 'Bare Bones' Budget” in the February 7 edition of The Herald.

As requested by a board member, the board also reviewed policy GCE, regarding employment of part-time professional staff and substitute teachers. The board particularly looked at the age and high school graduation requirements of substitute teachers. After reviewing the policy, Dr. Griffin recommended it stay the same. No action was taken by the board.

Director of Human Resource Elizabeth Jamerson introduced the proposed school calendar, as a first read, to the board. She reported that changes to the current school year include fewer early dismissal days. Spring break is also scheduled to begin the last day of March, due to the lateness of Easter and testing days, according to Jamerson. Classes will begin August 8 and, if it is a mild winter, end May 21, according to the proposed calendar.

The draft calendar is posted on the school's website and parental input is encouraged.

In Other News

– Jamerson, the school board clerk, and Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Chip Jones, the board's deputy clerk, were recognized for their faithful service to the board during the February meeting.

– The board viewed a short video on project-based learning modules centered on Black History Month at Cumberland Elementary School.

– Sanderson reviewed the board's goals and highlighted ways various board members had been active in the Cumberland community over the past few months.