On April 10, the final meeting of the Cranston Education Advisory Board for this year took place at the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center housed on the Cranston High School West campus.
CEAB is a School Committee-mandated organization that connects representatives from each school in the district to representatives from the committee and administration in order to share information and concerns on a regularly scheduled basis.
CEAB chairperson Jen Davey introduced CACTC Director Zachary Farrell as a featured speaker at the meeting.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” Farrell said. “We are growing and our growth is driven by high demand for our high-quality programs, teachers, and students. We recently got a plumbing pathways program approved at Cranston East for next year, and we also have a criminal justice program and our JROTC program there.”
In addition to those three programs housed at East, there are 11 pathways programs housed at the Cranston West campus. Students take a full academic course load in addition to their career and technical education, or CTE, programs over four years’ time. Students earn a high school diploma, a CTE certificate of completion and additional industry certifications for their program. Programs also include work-based learning opportunities and college credit opportunities.
“We are always adding new certifications to our programs,” Farrell said. “Last year, we added in the EMT certification for our medical pathways program and the students can also receive the CNA certification. It makes our students very marketable. We are always looking to expand opportunities for students like that.”
Farrell noted that there are currently students attending CACTC from nine districts across Rhode Island, for a total of 70 additional students, a significant increase from past years.
He also shared that the March SkillsUSA awards ceremony had spotlighted a record number of CACTC student medal winners, with a large group heading to the national competition in Lousiville, Kentucky, in June.
When asked how the new block schedule system for the 2018-19 school year was affecting the CACTC programs, Farrell shared that it’s been beneficial for both the students and teachers.
With the recent addition of pathways classes at the middle schools, a question was raised as to the success of those classes and the connection, if any, to the pathways programs at the high school level.
Joe Rotz, executive director of educational programs and services for Cranston Public Schools, explained that the committee for the middle school pathways program issued a survey for parents and students that found the pathways programs at the middle school level were successful and enjoyed by the students. Additional courses were suggested as part of the survey, and there were other programs that had less student interest that may be eliminated in the future.
“It’s a work in progress,” Rotz said. “It’s our first year of doing this and it will take a few years to have a fully successful program. At this level, it’s exposure to hands-on, project-based learning where students can make a real-world connection. Student-engagement is a top priority in our district in general.”
Farrell said the middle school pathways programs were used as part of the CACTC application process as an indication of interest in particular programs.
“It’s a way to possibly channel kids into the programs when they sample and explore at the middle school level,” he said.
He discussed the new certification regulations for teachers wishing to transition from an industry job into a job as a teacher in a CTE program.
“They’ve recently changed the regulations from the Rhode Island Department of Education so that you only need five years of industry experience to get certified, five W2s, which can then be renewed after three years, at which point one must be enrolled in an education certification program. You then have the chance to renew for four more years,” he said. “Roger Williams University is starting a new certification program just for CTE teachers because there is such a demand. It helps us out going forward, especially when we have retiring teachers and we need to replace them. These new certification regulations are a huge step in the right direction, and our colleges and universities understand the demand.”
As the meeting concluded, Davey discussed the plan for CEAB for next year, when a new chairperson and vice chairperson would be in place. Rotz reminded the group present to attend future School Committee meetings to be kept up to date on school budget information as well as information about school renovations.