Fifteen people spoke in the public comment period during the Buena Vista school board meeting on the subject of adding Career Technical Education courses to the curriculum.
All but three of the speakers were in favor of adding courses to the curriculum that would allow students who were uninterested in a college degree to pursue certification in technical trades while still in high school.
In discussion at the end of the meeting, board members said that the addition of CTE would divert resources from the rest of the high school’s curriculum, and that they had not seen evidence that the school was failing to work with students who were opting out of the traditional 4-year college path.
David Holt, one of the evening’s first speakers and a local advocate of CTE – sometimes called vocational training – requested that the board “make an official announcement of their intention, their commitment, to the development of a curriculum for non-college-bound students and a reasonable time frame for its implementation.”
The board declined to make such an announcement, but did agree that it would be prudent to pursue a meeting between the board, CTE advocates and teachers in the school’s industrial arts program.
They would make the case that much of what proponents of CTE were requesting was already available to Buena Vista students, and that the district should pursue strengthening these existing programs rather than adding what Holt had termed an “alternative curriculum.”
The speakers during the hour-long public comment session consisted of personal testimony of achieving successful careers through vocational school, by local business owners noting the difficulty of finding skilled tradespeople and parents of current students who have decided not to go to college.
Ken McMurry suggested that the board set aside some time during its December retreat to “make (CTE) a topic on conversation,” looking at what programs the school already offered that were close to fitting into the CTE plan.
McMurry and Erik Phillips agreed that the board should ask the students what they wanted as they set out into their post-high school careers.
“I just think we’ve got to know what the students want,” Phillips said. “What I got out of tonight’s meeting was one parent that was distraught that their student wasn’t going to a college, another parent that was distraught because their student wanted to go to a secondary school. So, are we listening to what parents want, or are we listening to what kids want?”
Tracy Storms said that the certification required to teach CTE courses added another burden to the school’s teachers.
Board president Suzette Hachmann saw “a miscommunication issue on our side, because so much of what they are asking for, I think we have. Just saying we don’t provide anything to these kids who aren’t college-bound, I just don’t think that’s true. My question is, ‘What are we providing to those kids, and how are we communicating it to those families? Are there families that really don’t know?”