CACTC welcomes new staff member, set to showcase initiatives

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The Cranston Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC) has started the new school year off with several new initiatives and has also welcomed a new staff member.

As the school prepares for the Nov. 6 Future Falcon Open House, it welcomes all students who are in middle and high school, both in and out of Cranston Public Schools, and looks forward to showcasing all of the new initiatives now under way.

Regina Hogan has joined the graphic communications program, bringing a great deal of experience with her.

“Regina has been an amazing addition to our family here and to the graphics program,” CACTC Director Gerry Auth said. “She is a graduate of the program, she was a teaching assistant in the program, and she also established herself as a teacher at the Davies Technical School. She brings a great deal of industry knowledge and experience along with her, as well as her talent and creativity. We are thrilled to have her aboard.”

In addition to the new member of the staff, CACTC has been seeing a great deal of growth and change across the board in its pathway programs and offerings.

“There is a new statewide career and technical education board now and it oversees all Career and Technical Education programs across the state,” said CACTC Director Gerry Auth. “It consists of representatives from industry, from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and building-level educators. Our superintendent of schools, Jeannine Nota-Masse, is the superintendent representative for the state on this board, which is wonderful for us.”

Nota-Masse is pleased to be Cranston’s voice at the statewide table.

“It’s good that we have this voice on the board, and I am happy to see that the state is working to put a modern emphasis on career and technical education,” she said. “Too many people still think of this as a last option for their students, when really it should be the very first option. It’s critical to change the way that people view career and technical education. We need our students to have these skills for going into entry-level jobs and this education gives them that and so much more.”

According to Auth, one of the goals of the board is to develop more rigorous standards for career and technical education across the state, and to set benchmarks for the schools.

“The standards and benchmarks would be set for schools to obtain industry certifications and classes with which students would earn college credits, two areas that our CACTC really excel in,” he said. “There has been a big spotlight across the state and even in our own city to continue to really think about our programs and the quality of each one. We want to make sure that they are relevant for our students and that we are keeping up with the industry standards. We have really had a lot of support across our district and from our community over the past five years for our school and it’s pathways programs. The opportunities here are tremendous.”

To date, several of the CACTC career pathways offer concurrent enrollment opportunities for their students who wish to earn college credits while still in high school. The Medical Pathways program has two credits available from Rhode Island College, the CAD/Drafting program has three credits available from RIC, the Aquaculture program has six credits available from the University of Rhode Island, the Interactive Digital Media program has eight credits available from URI, and the CISCO program has three credits available from URI.

“These are college credits that the students have the opportunity to earn here, that they can then take with them anywhere for their post-secondary education,” Auth said. “Our child development and entrepreneurship pathway programs are going to be looking to expand in the future, and hope to add in some college credit offerings as well.”

In looking at the data from the past three years, CACTC has seen a jump in the number of students earning college credits over the past three years, with 415 students having earned concurrent enrollment credits in 2016, up from 162 in 2015 and none in 2014. In 2016 there were 292 students who earned RIDE recognized credentials, up from 202 in 2015 and 169 in 2014.

“To have this new emphasis on career and technical education across the state, this is really a great opportunity for us to closely examine each of our pathway programs here, to see what direction we want to go in, and to continue to add to the opportunities and offerings in each one,” he said. “We are really being held to a higher standard and CACTC has risen to the occasion.”

To that end, Auth noted that the child development pathways program recently added in a one-to-one Chromebook component to their program, which is in line with what is happening in the education field.

“This is year two of this initiative and we have seen an overwhelming level of success with it,” Auth said. “We have given each student in the program a Chromebook which they can use for that program and for any other class work that they have. We were able to use funding from the career and technical education programs and it’s been very successful. Students are using technology at a very young age, and educators in the field are using it in their instruction, so putting the same technology into the hands of our students is what we want to do. If it’s being done in the industry, we want to do it as well.”

Also in the area of technology, interactive digital media (IDM) teacher Aimee Duarte has been working on a new initiative as well, focusing on infusing more computer science into her program, which is in line with the governor’s emphasis on having computer science in all classrooms at all levels.

“This is year two of infusing more computer science into that curriculum, having done a pilot last year,” Auth said. “We’re very excited about all of the hard work that Aimee has put in over the summer months and during the school year. She’s really a leader in our state with this initiative. The students in her program have the opportunity to take AP computer science classes as part of her curriculum, and it’s really a fantastic opportunity for them.”

Duarte explained how she has been able to make that happen for her students.

“Two years ago, I received an email that talked about what it is that we do in our classroom and offering the opportunity to learn about adding in more computer science into our curriculum,” Duarte said. “I was always interested in adding in more of that for my students in IDM. We do a great deal with animation, web design and game design, but there is also a lot of programming that can be done. Howard Dooley at URI ran some pilot programs for a few teachers along with URI staff and we were trained. Last year we were able to run this as a pilot program here and this year we are expanding it further. We have taken more workshops and summer programs and have undergone more curriculum training.”

As Duarte continues to expand in both her own training and in the curriculum offerings, there will continue to be additional opportunities for students to enhance their computer science experiences in the IDM program.

The CACTC is located on the campus of Cranston High School West and will be open for visiting on Sunday, Nov. 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. during the Future Falcon Open House. For more information on the 11 three-year career pathway programs available for students, visit cpsed.net/cactc. 

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