SYRACUSE — During a presentation by Alan Tehan, owner of Technical Services, to the Wawasee school board Tuesday evening, Aug. 21, in Syracuse, there was a photo on the BenQ interactive board showing a robotic corn planter. It essentially summed up Tehan’s thinking about how to train students to be ready to enter a technology driven world.
Tehan’s presentation was part of the work session following a very brief budget hearing. During the budget hearing Jim Evans, director of finances for the Wawasee Community School Corporation, provided proof the 2019 budget has been advertised in local newspapers. There were no public comments for or against the budget, which is typical.
Earlier this year, the school corporation purchased facilities from Tehan that will eventually be used for expansion of career and technical education programs and other uses. Tehan said one plan for the new facility is to integrate a makerspace, which he described as a giant shop to make stuff with machinery and equipment with the help of staff members. He noted some kids may not do so well in an English class but have creative skills that can be used to build things.
He said what is being done with robotics in Wawasee schools is good, but “it’s not enough” because the type of robotics used in the manufacturing world is at a higher level. Welding, he noted, may not be done with human hands 10 years from now “so we need to teach kids how to weld and then how to set up a machine to weld.”
Tehan, using the robotic corn planter as an example, said “there are a lot of things going on in the world (of manufacturing and engineering) and we’re not talking about it.”
The school board also heard from Jon Everingham, Pathways Cooperative director, who said CTE helps with academics overall because it can engage students more in their education. “CTE is no longer just vocational,” he said, but is really for everybody.
Rebecca Linnemeier, school board president, noted there are some mothers who still feel their kids should go to college for four years even though they may fit better into a CTE program. She said those moms need to be sold on the benefits of CTE.
Everingham said there is still a certain stigma attached to manufacturing, for example, that facilities are not clean, but that is usually not true. He referred to an upcoming tour county students will take of some local manufacturing plants and they will see how clean they really are.
Pathways shared programs, or those attended by students from more than one school, have grown from five before 2008 to 12 presently with two new ones, emergency medical technician and primary health, starting this school year.
Welding, for one example, has grown from three students a few years ago to as many as 40. There were 152 Wawasee students enrolled in work based learning during the 2017-18 school year at 62 different businesses covering three counties. WBL gives students hands-on, real world experiences.
Kim Nguyen, Wawasee High School principal, also gave a presentation to the board and noted Wawasee is more prepared than other school districts are for the new graduation pathways requirements. “We need to figure out how to better collect and track the data,” he said, but CTE programs that have been emphasized at Wawasee for several years now have more meaning than ever before.
Beginning with the class of 2023, all graduating seniors will need to have something from each of the three tiers of high school diploma, learn and demonstrate employability skills and have postsecondary-ready competencies.
Wawasee’s class of 2018 had 75 percent of students complete at least one advanced placement or dual credit course.