BOE look toward a technical future

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Assistant state superintendent and chief officer of career and technical education Dr. Kathy D’Antoni gave a presentation at the July 30 meeting of the Pocahontas County Board of Education on a new concept for education – technical high schools.

Superintendent Terrence Beam invited D’Antoni to attend the meeting to discuss the new style of high school because the board and a committee are currently working on the CEFP – Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan – which is a 10-year plan for the school system.

D’Antoni enthusiastically explained that she feels a technical school structure will better serve the students in West Virginia.

“It’s an exciting time for schools right now,” she said. “We are in the midst of change to a certain extent. It’s time, because right now – in my opinion – our schools are failing our kids. We have to be more technical because that’s what the jobs are, and that’s where they’re going.”

At this time, Pocahontas County High School has a strong CTE – career and technical education – program, but D’Antoni said there would be many more fields offered with the new structure.

“Technical high school doesn’t mean carpentry, welding, etc.,” she said. “Today it’s aerospace technology. It’s biomedical. It’s cyber security. It’s coding. These are areas that your young people could jump into and stay in the area and make lots of money.”

With the new concept, D’Antoni said a high school would still follow the state curriculum requirements for academics, but the classes will be incorporated into the technical fields with project-based learning.

“You’ve got to shift the emphasis, and that’s what technical high school does,” she said. “It builds the academics around the careers and shows young people where English applies; where math applies. It doesn’t negate the academic.

“A lot of times, people look at a technical high school and think, ‘what happens to the AP student?’” she continued. “It makes them better because they then start exploring on their own. What happens in our traditional high school – and it’s well intended – but we keep our thumbs on children’s growth by not allowing them to explore and see where they want to go. This makes teaching a facilitation rather than the delivery of education.”

Lincoln County High School became a technical high school in the past few years and D’Antoni said the transition took time, but the students are thriving and exploring their creativity.

“We have a group down in Lincoln County who have created a blanket that has sensors in it that can help with the SIDS problem. It alerts parents if their child is in distress,” she said. “We’re looking to get that patented.”

Another group at LCHS developed an automated wind tunnel for farmers, which allows them to operate it from an App on their phone.

“MIT gave them a $50,000 grant to develop this further,” D’Anotni said. “This came from kids just looking at problems, and they wanted to solve a problem. Same thing with the blanket. It just blows my mind what can happen.”

The LCHS students are also visiting the local middle schools and working with the younger students to create projects. One group of graphic design students also worked with a second grade class. The younger students drew monsters and then the graphic design students scanned them and created a monster book to give to the class.

There is also a pilot program in three middle schools in Monongalia, Monroe and Calhoun counties where students are creating their own businesses and designing their own projects.

“They are working on projects that incorporate English, math and science,” D’Antoni said. “What we’re seeing is phenomenal. So far, we’ve seen attendance go up. Students are engaged.”

D’Antoni said the most important part of transitioning to a technical high school is the plan. She suggested the board form a task force of educators, community members and students to determine how they feel the school should operate and what classes should be offered.

She added that the state department of education has funding and other resources to help with the plan if the board chooses to make the change.

D’Antoni said she will compile several examples of technical high school plans to share with the board for the planning process.

“There are so many possibilities when you allow young people the opportunity to dream, to explore, to create and there are a lot of resources out there for us to help,” she said. “It’s just an exciting time. I think your county would benefit tremendously if you could look at different ways to enrich these young people.”

Dilley resigns to teach

During the business portion of the meeting, the board approved the resignation of board member Justin Dilley, who represented the northern district. Dilley was hired later in the meeting to teach science at Pocahontas County High School.

The board shared their well wishes for Dilley and said they were losing a great member, but also gaining a good teacher.

“I hate to lose him as a board member because he was a major asset to us, a very smart individual,” John Burns said. “I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job as a teacher. I told him that this whole thing was bittersweet. We’re losing a good man, but the school system is gaining a good teacher.”

The board is now seeking an individual to fill Dilley’s vacant seat. The individual must reside in the northern district. Letters of intent should be sent to: Terrence C. Beam, Superintendent of Schools, 404 Old Buckeye Road, Buckeye, WV 24924

Miscellaneous and personnel management will be in next week’s edition of The Pocahontas Times.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, August 20, at 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

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