State senator visits Kent County High School See VISIT Page A7
WORTON — State Sen. Jim Rosapepe toured Kent County High School Dec. 20 to get a closer look the Career and Technology Education programs available at the school.
His visit focused on the success of KCHS in preparing students to join the workforce through certifications earned in CTE pathways.
“In all kinds of ways, you guys lead the state,” Rosapepe, D-21-Prince George’s, said of the school’s pathways.
Rosapepe along with Kent County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Couch, Kent County Economic Development Coordinator Jamie Williams and KCHS Assistant Principal Mark Buckel met with teachers and students participating in various pathways. He visited culinary arts, nursing, broadcasting, construction, education and automotive technology classes.
Later in the tour, KCHS Principal Nick Keckley and Darrius Johnson joined.
Buckel said having only one high school in the county contributed to the success of the school’s CTE programs. He said the school’s pathways also have been seven to 10 years in the making. He praised previous KCHS principal Tracey Williams, now a central office administrator for the district, citing her work toward educating counselors on how to encourage students to enroll in a CTE pathway.
Couch said having a small high school worked to its benefit of providing help and guidance for each student.
However, Buckel said the county’s size also contributes to the school system getting the least amount of funding from the state.
As he visited each classroom, Rosapepe asked teachers questions including how many students participate in their programs, how many work jobs outside of school and how many go on to get a job using their cer- tificate. He also asked each teacher how long they have taught at the high school and what they did before becoming teachers.
Buckel said the school’s nursing program has a high rate of students graduating with certificates and getting jobs in the field.
Academy of Health instructor Christa Collison, a registered nurse who has taught at the school for 10 years, said many of her students use the pathway as a stepping stone to pre-med programs or a nursing degree, but about 85 percent get a job in the field after they graduate.
Collison said students graduate with three certifications including certified nursing assistant, pharmacy technician and geriatric nursing assistant. She said she has 20 seniors graduating this year, and she teaches about 70 students in total each year.
Rosapepe suggested including a youth apprenticeship program in addition to its existing programs.
“Your kids are already in effect creating their own youth apprenticeships. ... What you’re missing is the integration of the on-the-job and the program here that a youth apprenticeship really strengthens,” Rosapepe said.
Collison said University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is a major reason no such program has been installed. She said when she first joined the district, students were allowed to apprentice at the hospital, but when University of Maryland Medical System took over the hospital in Chestertown, people under the age of 18 were not allowed to work there.
“That is a problem for us,” Couch said.
Instead, for Collison’s students to get 70 hours of experience in a “clinical setting” she takes them to nursing and retirement homes in the area including Heron Point.
During his tour, Rosapepe offered suggestions for the
school to improve its CTE pathways including adding an IT or a plumbing program. He also asked why the school offers carpentry as a pathway as opposed to other trades.
Couch said the school would implement more trades certificates, but money is an obstacle. She said switching over to different programs such as heating and air conditioning is expensive because the school has to buy new equipment and hire trained teachers.
Rosapepe said he is drafting legislation to create a state grant program to get equipment for CTE programs.
Jamie Williams said Dixon Valve & Coupling Co. is one of the large employers in the county and having trained workers from the high school would be a good thing.
“I can share a statistic: 27 percent of the wages in Kent County are earned from manufacturing. That’s huge. It’s the largest industry sector in the county by wages earned,” Jamie Williams said.
During his visit, Rosapepe also visited agricultural sciences, another big industry for Kent County.
Liza Goetz, the school’s ag sciences teacher, said most of the students do not earn industry certifications, but chose to get credit through University of Maryland or Chesapeake College. She said a lot of students are opting to go to higher education. She said there is only one certification possible at the high school.
“Ag is huge. It’s really, really broad, so I have kids who want to be a vet, kids who want to be lawyers,” Goetz said.
Rosapepe said the state wants to see more students graduate with certifications.
“There’s a lot of concern that too many kids are graduating from CTE programs without any certifications. They learned a lot, that’s great, but they can’t actually get a job and make money because they’re not getting certifications,” Rosapepe said.
Goetz said whether or not a student will need certification after high school depends on what they are doing. However, she said, all aspects of ag
science require education.
“I think when you look at ag ... you have to decide what you’re trying to do. So if you’re looking to do something on the family farm, you’re either land rich or equipment rich. You can’t just be like, ‘Hey when I grow up I’m going to be a farmer.’ So there has to be a lot of other options that are available,” Goetz said.
Goetz said there are a lot of different options for students to go through with ag sciences, which makes it difficult for the school to offer specific certifications. She said the most job availability and opportunity to make money is in biotechnology. Working in biotechnology requires a variety of skills ranging from picking seeds, which does not need certifications, to genetic work, which requires a college degree.
Rosapepe also was interested in where Goetz’s students
work if they have jobs outside of school in agriculture.
Rosapepe also met with Caren Saunders, who teaches the CTE pathway for the Teacher Academy of Maryland. The program, which is in its third year, still has relatively low enrollment. However, Saunders attributes that to the program’s newness.
“We are still trying to figure out how to let students know about it and how to market it with students,” Saunders said. “I think if underclass students knew what was involved in the pathway, more of them might sign up.”
Students who do complete the pathway earn a certificate to be an instructional assistant.
Rosapepe praised the district and the number of students enrolled in CTE and graduating with certifications.
“Who knew having skills was really applicable in the real world?” Rosapepe said.
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe, right, takes a look at a wooden motorcycle constructed by students in Kent County High School’s Career and Technology pathway of construction trades.
Liza Goetz and state Sen. Jim Rosapepe discuss the agricultural sciences at Kent County High School Dec. 20.