The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 21, 2013

Career Tech awarded $369K equipment grant

By Kim West

— Instructors at the Limestone County Career Technical Center will be busy making a list and checking it twice during the next two weeks, but it won’t be shopping for Thanksgiving trimmings or Black Friday specials.

Instead, the teachers will be submitting equipment requests to the central office on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement that the school has been awarded a $369,599 state grant.

The nonmatching grant is being funded through a $10 million bond issue previously approved by the Legislature, said Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk, who thanked the local legislative delegation for helping secure the funds.

He said the grant is earmarked for equipment, allowing for the purchase of big-ticket items beyond the school system’s budget.

“We were ecstatic … it’s a pretty good chunk considering there are 134 school systems in the state,” Sisk said. “This will allow us to purchase equipment that was cost-prohibitive.”

He said he hopes to have a finalized list sent to state officials by Dec. 2, with equipment available for classroom use by August 2014.

“The first step will be to do a needs assessment because there are some criteria we will have to meet to get the money,” Sisk said.

The superintendent said the grant money may not be spent on “consumables, or on something with a working life of less than one year.”

Sisk said the Career Tech staff met Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Phillip Cleveland to learn about the grant. Cleveland is the state Department of Education’s director of career and technical education.

“One example of equipment that could be purchased is a plasma-cutting table,” Sisk said.

“We already have a table for making farm implements that was secured through another $10,000 grant in Tanner High School’s (agriculture) department,” Sisk said. “The one we could buy for Career Tech is a larger version. It’s a high-tech piece of equipment with a robotic arm that allows for minute, state-of-the-art machining.

“It would allow students to use (computer-aided design) to cut and fabricate metal pieces.”

He said the additional equipment would upgrade several departments at Career Tech, including the machining and welding shop and the prenursing program.

“What this money allows us to do is address the career readiness piece of educating our students, and we hope this money could be leveraged with other business partners,” Sisk said.