The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 17, 2014

Career Tech to add 5 programs, new grant revealed

By Kim West

— School officials announced five new programs and a $209,000 state grant for the Limestone County Career Technical Center during Thursday’s faculty meeting.

The center already offers 15 programs and plans to phase in the new pathways as soon as infrastructure and curriculum can be put in place, said Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk.

The proposed programs, which were approved by the school board earlier this month, are emergency services; diesel technology; industrial systems technology; teaching and training; and law enforcement and legal services.

Betsy Pitchford, the county school system’s grant writer, said the money comes from the Career and Technical Education 21st Century Workforce Fund, with $86,000 to supplement the school’s existing information technology department and $123,000 for a new public safety program.

School spokeswoman Karen Tucker said the school system intends to provide credentialed courses, allowing Career Tech students to get a head start on becoming firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, police officers and sheriff’s deputies.

Some career paths require special — and sometimes costly — credentials through the state, but the school system can now apply to have those credentialing and examination fees covered for students, Sisk said.

Credentials include high school diplomas, diploma endorsements and professional certificates.

For secondary educators, “credentialing is going to be a buzz phrase … and bottom line, most of our kids that get credentialed, they will get them (at Career Tech),” Sisk said.

The superintendent and Vince Green, interim director of Career Tech, said the current and new offerings would be promoted during the school’s annual SkillsUSA competition.

The Feb. 8 contest showcases the students’ skills in more than a dozen categories, with the school winners advancing to state.

Sisk said the school system is excelling at core curriculum but needs to boost its emphasis on career, technical and enrichment offerings for students.

“We do a great job with our core opportunities but with our enrichment opportunities, we have to do a better job,” he said.

Career Tech, which has 532 students enrolled according to its website, previously announced a $369,599 equipment grant in November 2013, through a $10 million state bond issue.

Several of the school’s departments, including the machining and welding shop and the pre-nursing program, are set to receive new equipment.