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JEFF MEADORS: RCA continues to grow through partnerships

As students head back to school, Rockdale Career Academy ratchets up workforce development with a new partnership aimed at graduating firefighters eligible for local employment. It is a dual enrollment partnership between Rockdale County Fire Rescue, Georgia Piedmont Technical College and training-ground titan RCA leading to the state exam and NPQ1 qualification.

Situated within a community launching a university model of course offerings where bus zones take back seats to student achievement, RCA flexes one of its greatest strengths yet again – the ability to form partnerships.

One of Georgia’s most successful educational institutions is no longer a best-kept secret. This diamond in the rough of Georgia’s educational landscape built on strong leadership resulting in arresting development, explosive student participation, and high completion rates takes center stage.

RCA keynotes the 7th Annual Lieutenant Governor’s Business & Education Summit this Nov. 13, a collaboration of business, industry and community leaders, state and local education leaders, and college and career academy CEOs, just one month shy of the two-year anniversary of the 12-12-12 ribbon cutting of its cutting edge new wing.

Situated within 30 miles of the busiest airport on the planet, the Centers for Disease Control, and Global Fortune 500 plasma behemoth Baxter International, RCA attracts prolific student growth in its health care pathways. And they come by choice seeking highly prized internships at Rockdale Medical Center.

Many RCA students complete two pathways by graduation day, with some completing three. The academy offers college, technical college and AP classes.

Leading Rockdale County in at least two EOCT subjects into the new school year RCA’s strength in mathematics lies in the relevance of numeracy woven intricately into CTAE curricula. Offering no stand-alone math classes, RCA student test data, when added to county-wide achievement scores, dramatically boosts system averages.

Flanked by strong community support, RCA serves a community coming together. The academy hosts county-wide college fairs, the Fast Forward 5K and Fun Run, and an annual Cruising for Careers Car Show.

And industry experts teach here.

Career pathways from engineering, graphic design, law and justice, manufacturing, culinary, electronics, Road Trip Nation, agriscience, architectural design, computer networking/Cisco, healthcare, homeland security, marketing, and transportation logistics are led by top faculty often pulled from industry.

Rockdale as a system has increased the rate of concentrators passing EOPAs by 18.28 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2013. Rates have increased for both male and female students since fiscal year 2012 and have dramatically increased since fiscal year 2012 for black, Hispanic and white subgroups.

The first academy in Georgia to earn certification through a pilot collaboration of the Technical College System of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Education- Charter Schools Division and AdvancED (SACS), RCA now comes forth with articles of incorporation through 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The aim of RCA’s 501(c)(3) is clear: to operate an organization designed to provide a seamless blend of academics with career and technical education and employability skills to better serve the Rockdale County community.

Nothing illustrates this commitment more clearly than the new dual enrollment firefighter program aimed at training firefighters to protect a county participants proudly call home in a workforce only too happy to hire its progeny.

Jeff Meadors contributes occasional analysis and opinion on education and schools.