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NCSS given $3M for academy

COVINGTON -- Thanksgiving is over, but the Newton County School System still has a lot to be thankful for this year.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle announced Thursday afternoon that the state board of the Technical College System of Georgia approved an award of $3.05 million in state grant funds to NCSS and funds to six other school systems in Georgia as part of the state Career Academy Project, an initiative spearheaded by Cagle in 2007.

"We are one step closer to providing access to a Career Academy to every student in Georgia," Cagle said in a press release. "During these tough economic times, it is now more important than ever before to give our students the promise of a path to a successful career. ... Career academies provide a relevant learning environment, a proven record of high graduation rates and 100 percent job placement or post secondary opportunities."

NCSS officials said the award will be used in conjunction with DeKalb Technical College to help develop the proposed Newton College and Career Academy.

"We are extremely excited about the possibilities for support of the learning of our students which this grant provides for high school career and technical education," said NCSS Superintendent Steve Whatley in a press release. "The cooperation of the collegiate, business, governmental and private entities working together to make this a reality is a positive step taken for the educational and economic development for this community."

Newton's program is not completely planned out yet, but it anticipates opening the academy in August 2011 to serve up to 350 students in grades 10 through 12, adding more students in grades nine through 12 each year.

Using a main partnership with DeKalb Technical College and working with other area schools, organizations and businesses, the academy will encourage dual and joint enrollment and will offer classes aimed at post-secondary education and the work force.

"(The) decision paves the way for a phenomenal educational opportunity in Newton County," said Dr. Robin Hoffman, president of DeKalb Technical College in the press release. "It will allow students to actually graduate from high school with a college level associate degree from DeKalb Technical College."

James Woodard, director of Career, Technical and Agriculture Education at NCSS, said the award wouldn't have been possible without the support and collaborative efforts from various community groups and organizations.

"Governmental agencies, community and business and industry provided the impetus for us to make an application, but more importantly the support of the community greatly strengthened the Career Academy application," he said. "Great opportunities will abound for students in Newton County as a result of this grant. Students will have the chance to connect more directly with their career paths and earn industry credentials in addition to their high school diploma. This will increase the chance for our students to be gainfully employed in a very competitive work environment. We will focus programs at the career academy in areas that are high skill, high wage and high demand occupations."

Other schools and school systems being awarded a grant through the Georgia Career Academy Project include Carroll County Schools, City of Decatur Schools and Liberty County Schools with $3.05 million each; Rockdale County Public Schools with $2.695 million; the Savannah Gateway Academy and High School for Media & Recording Arts at Savannah Technical College with $454,000; and Coweta County Schools' Central Education Center in Newnan with $150,000.