Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, traveled to Atlanta Thursday with Mike Moye, president of Lanier Technical College, to pitch a joint grant proposal to leaders of the Technical College System of Georgia. Schofield and Moye are competing against nine other K-12 school system and technical college partnerships statewide that also made it to the final round for five $3.2 million grants to support technical education in public high schools.
If awarded, the grant would strengthen the partnership between Hall County school system’s Lanier Career Academy and Lanier Technical College. The vast majority of the grant would fund an addition to the existing Lanier Career Academy building on Atlanta Highway to house the Lanier Charter Career Academy, which could be up and running by fall 2011.
Schofield said he believes the grant would initiate a more hands-on career-oriented approach to high school education that would wake students up, jarring them out of their traditional lackluster learning schedules.
"We’ve got to find a way for these older students, for these high school-aged students, to get them passionate about their learning again," he said. "We have too many students just going through the motions, enduring a high school experience. We need to find a way to get them passionate and turned back on to their learning."
He said reportedly only about one-fourth of high school students believe what they’re learning in school is relevant to their life goals. Schofield said he believes providing a more rigorous technical program that invites high school students to explore their career goals is just one way to enliven learning.
Spurred by the success of hands-on programs such as Habitat High and Hospitality High offered through Lanier Career Academy, Schofield said it’s clear high school students benefit from exploring careers in which they envision themselves working before they graduate.
Habitat High, now in its third semester, has led high school construction students to build three Habitat for Humanity homes. And the school system’s new hands-on career program Hospitality High puts students interested in the culinary arts or marketing to work at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
With grant funds, Schofield said students would be able to learn more about digital media, as well as opportunities in the medical and marketing fields. He said a student and staff-run bistro would be a highlight of the Lanier Charter Career Academy. At the bistro, culinary arts students would be responsible for cooking pastries and gourmet meals at the restaurant, which would be open to the public during lunch hour.
The grants will be awarded on Nov. 6, Schofield said.
"We’re going to do this with or without grant money, but the beauty is if we were to receive this grant, we could do it so much quicker, particularly in these tough economic times," he said.
Schofield said without the grant funds, it would take more than five years for the Hall County school system to get the Lanier Charter Career Academy program under way.
Cindy Blakley, director of secondary education for Hall County schools, said the conditions of the grant require construction to begin this school year.
She said the state board of education currently is reviewing the school system’s request to convert Lanier Career Academy to a charter school that would introduce more technical school certifications to high school students. If the state board of education approves the charter status and the Technical College System of Georgia awards one of the grants to Hall County schools and Lanier Tech, students could earn a range of certificates in high school that will give them a jump-start on their careers and college.
Moye said Lanier Tech professors could be teaching certification classes at Lanier Charter Career Academy next fall.
"(High school students) can exit from the career academy with both a high school diploma and a certificate from Lanier Tech and move seamlessly from the career academy to the associate degree program at Lanier Tech," Moye said. "And after achieving the associate degree, they can move to Gainesville State College for a baccalaureate program. It’s all tied together in a very planned organized manner."
He said students could earn technical certificates in the culinary arts, hospitality management and multimedia communications. The program would also create opportunities for students interested in the growing medical field by offering high school students certificates in medical translating, certified nursing assistant and pharmacy assistant.