Rethink career academy, says Clarke school superintendent

Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means wants to rethink the school system’s career academy.

 

Located in the school district’s H.T. Edwards complex off West Broad Street, the career academy was conceived as a place where high school students could get college-level vocational education, with many courses taught by instructors from Athens Technical College.

But “that’s not what’s happening there,” he said.

Most of the courses students are taking at the Athens Community Career Academy are introductory-level college academic courses, he said. Students who qualify can take college courses for free at the academy, saving their families money on college costs.

State officials named the Athens Community Career Academy the top such academy in the state in 2014, but enrollment in its college vocational courses has not met the expectations when the academy was launched five years ago.

Means suggested students might be taking those introductory courses instead of taking AP courses at their high schools. Means would like to increase the district’s AP portfolio, and have a stronger technical-vocational component at the career academy..

His vision is a “more robust” offering of technical training that “would actually strengthen our partnership with Athens Technical College,” he said after the meeting.

Board member Sarah Ellis also noted the difficulty posed for students who want to participate in extracurricular activities such as band.

Students from one school are bused to the academy either for afternoon sessions or morning sessions, and if the extracurricular activity they want is scheduled at the same time, they can’t do it.

With many courses, “shouldn’t the staff members go over to the kids,” rather than the kids going to the place where the teachers are? Means asked.

Means said his observations were not a criticism of Lawrence Harris, the career academy’s new director.

“I’ve been very impressed with Lawrence and his team,” he said.

Harris has been “caught in the middle of a difficult philosophical battle” within the school district, he said..

Means said he didn’t know if he would be able to resolve the dilemma by January.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

 

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