The Cranston Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC) recently welcomed a new executive director to its helm, Zachary Farrell.
Farrell did not have far to travel when moving into his new office, transitioning from Cranston High School West, where he had been an Assistant Principal since 2016. A Cranston native, Farrell grew up in the Edgewood section of town and attended Cranston Public Schools for his elementary and middle school years.
“I attended Rhodes and Edgewood Highland elementary schools and Park View Middle School,” said Farrell.
After attending Bishop Hendricken High School and then the University of Rhode Island where he received his Bachelor’s Degree, Farrell received his Master’s Degree in European History from Providence College and began teaching at North Providence High School where he remained for eight years.
“I became an assistant principal at Johnston High School in 2010 and in 2013 I became the principal there. I was there until 2016,” he said.
Farrell decided to jump at the opportunity to work in the Cranston Public Schools he had grown up in when the assistant principal position at West opened up in 2016, and was excited to join the administrative team at CHSW.
“There were a lot of good things going on in the city,” he said. “The school committee and the district’s leadership team are great and very cohesive. You need that kind of cohesiveness to move a school forward, and they definitely have a vision as a district as to where they want to be, which is also important.”
The move to CACTC was one that Farrell felt fit him well, both personally and professionally, and he knew he would see many familiar faces there, even beyond the staff members he knew.
“When I was at Johnston High School, a good number of my students came here for high school after the ninth-grade because we don’t just service Cranston students. We service students from all over. I see many of my former students here now,” he said.
As Farrell arrived on the scene at CACTC, he found everyone to be welcoming and helped him adjust to the learning curve that is career and technical education.
“There are some different regulations here that I needed to familiarize myself with, and there are things like grant funding that are used here that I was not as familiar with,” he said.
Farrell is excited about the changes that are taking place at CACTC and the emphasis currently being placed on the importance of having a career and technical education – pathways education –n area in which CACTC has always been at the forefront in the state of Rhode Island.
“I’m currently looking at a grant opportunity from Electric Boat. They are looking to double their workforce over the next three years due to the contracts they have in place,” he said. “Their hot areas are welding and sheet metal manufacturing. We have welding in our residential construction pathways program and we are looking at improving those areas in order to meet those types of needs.”
Farrell said that the expansion of CACTC’s pathways programs to a four-year education instead of three will allow even more students than ever before access a career and technical education at CACTC.
Coupled with a new and improved schedule starting in the fall for both Cranston East and West, accessibility and opportunity for a CTE education will abound for the students in Cranston.
“We are looking to really improve our programs and address equity and access issues that both RIDE and the school department have identified. Next year we are expanding to a four-year program with students starting their pathways programs in the ninth-grade and incorporating the new schedule, which will also allow students to more easily participate in internship programs than they could before,” he said.
A new law enforcement pathways program is also in the works, and will be joining the JROTC pathways program already in existence and housed at Cranston High School East, possibly in time for the fall.
With the February 16 deadline for applying to CACTC on the horizon, Farrell said that there are already approximately 320 applications in from middle and high school students and he is pleased with the turnout that was seen at the January 7 Future Falcon Open House, especially with the number of middle school students who visited, as well as the large number of students who visited from outside of Cranston Public Schools.
The students who are applying as Level One students for next year will be split into two groups: ninth-grade Level One students who will complete the four year program, and tenth-grade Level One students who will complete the program in three years.
Looking ahead to the rest of this current school year, Farrell is excited to experience the SkillsUSA competitions that are coming up in March. The students in each pathways program (with the exception of the Entrepreneurship program, whose students compete in DECA instead) have the opportunity to compete with other CTE students statewide, with many then qualifying for the nationwide competition in June as well.
“That’s something I’m really excited to see play out,” he said.
For more information about CACTC, its programs and the application process, visit the website at cpsed.net/cactc.