NCSS one step closer to getting career academy

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System is one step closer to getting a career academy.

During July's combined monthly meeting, the Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved a charter petition for the Newton College and Career Academy.

"The Newton College and Career Academy is designed to offer students a challenging career pathway based on local work force needs," NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said in a memo to the school board.

Whatley said the charter is modeled on one in Coweta County, where a Central Educational Center was developed. That center has been used as a state model since 2000 and a national model since 2004.

Linda Hayden, associate superintendent for curriculum at NCSS, said the end goal of the academy is to provide a seamless education to college and work force development for NCSS high school students.

According to preliminary plans, the academy will serve up to 350 students in grades 10 through 12 from the Newton County high schools beginning in August 2011; it will add ninth-grade students in year two of the school. By year five, the school plans to serve up to 800 students in grades 9 through 12, with higher enrollment numbers for upper classmen.

"Research shows that students most often become disengaged or drop out of school because they do not see the relevance of their course work to adult life and future career goals," according to the plans. "There is mounting evidence that career academies can improve grades and test scores and increase attendance and graduation rates by providing a more relevant curriculum."

Hayden said the school will encourage dual and joint enrollment and plans to offer courses that might not be filled at an individual school but could be popular at a central location in the county.

The school also will have an emphasis on accountability, she said.

"More is expected of career tech students than ever before, especially in math and science," Hayden said. "We want our students to be prepared. ... We want them to be workplace ready."

The school, which would be a nonprofit corporation, would be managed through a chief executive officer, who would be approved by the NCSS superintendent and the Newton County BOE and report to the school's board of directors.

A location for the academy should be chosen by January; the school system plans to use either existing facilities or another property if one is not available, according to the plans.

"I think it's an exciting adventure for the school system, the community and ultimately for our students," school board Chair C.C. Bates said.

The school system plans to submit the application to the Georgia Department of Education, which first must approve the petition in order for the system to move forward with plans for the academy.

If approved, a Career Academy Steering Committee will develop a grant application for the Georgia Career Academies Project that could provide up to $3.1 million in funding for the school. The application is due Sept. 8.

Additionally, the academy plans to partner with local organizations like the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, local colleges and The Center for Facilitating Community Preservation and Planning, among others.

SideBar: At A Glance

Newton College and Career Academy Performance-Based Goals

· Goal I: To provide students in Newton County high schools with the requisite skills and knowledge to exceed the majority of U.S. Department of Education performance indicators.

· Goal II: To increase the number of students in Newton County high schools receiving post-secondary credits through local post secondary partners.

· Goal III: To help students become workplace ready in order to be gainfully employed or to continue their education and training in a variety of postsecondary options.