DOBSON — Surry County Schools has kicked off the new school year with a renewed emphasis on vocational and technical studies.
Last month, Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent, touched on the topic when discussing an agricultural studies barn to be built at North Surry.
Yes, Surry County Schools pushes a college-going culture and emphasizes earning college credits in high school, said the superintendent. However, there is also a growing movement toward re-emphasizing career and technical education (CTE).
TV personality Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” fame, started the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. He speaks publicly to bring awareness to “the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.”
Rowe has posted many times on his Facebook page about this topic such as: “I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning.”
Just before the new school year started late last month, the school district held a meeting for CTE teachers.
“You are vitally important to our local economy,” Reeves told the group. “Our students need skills suited to the local and regional labor force right here in Surry County.”
Dr. Jill Reinhardt, who has led CTE efforts as part of her responsibilities as assistant superintendent, reminded CTE teachers of the CTE Program Review from 2007 and outlined a number of program enhancements and changes that have taken place in the district over the past 11 years.
Some of those enhancements include partnerships with Surry Community College in construction and health sciences, the addition of Project Lead the Way in all middle and high schools, upgrades to the foods program and labs, and the addition of the Digital Media Academy.
“The review in 2007 provided us a roadmap with direction on growing our CTE programs and not remaining stagnant,” said Reinhardt. This fall, CTE will undergo another program review to include labor market analysis, interviews and focus groups to include teachers, students, parents and other community stakeholders to ensure we continue meeting the needs of our students.”
Reinhardt, whose title is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, is breaking off her CTE duties to give to another staff member who can devote more time to the effort.
Neil Atkins, a former school principal and current director of the Surry Virtual Academy, will take on the title of CTE director.
“Mr. Atkins is ready to take the reins,” said Reeves. “I am excited about Mr. Atkins in this role and look forward to the continued focus in Surry County Schools on the college and career-going culture that has become the norm for all high school students.”
Reeves shared state and regional labor market updates, pointing out the potential this has for students and the community.
• In this state, 37 occupations in health sciences, IT, architecture, construction and finance are expected to exceed 25-percent growth by 2024.
• In North Carolina, growth is expected in the hospitality, tourism and human services industries.
• Across the Southeast region, advanced manufacturing, IT, business management and administration will experience growth.
Moreover, Reeves shared with teachers the most recent changes to CTE:
• Next Generation Career Academy internships, which saw 27 students serve as interns in the first year. The district has made 15 business partners, six of which are new for this school year.
• Enhancements to agriculture studies, as previously reported with the new barn for North Surry and live animals for hands-on experience with livestock.
• A commercial kitchen at Surry Central, which will be featured in more detail in The Mount Airy News when it is ready later this month.
On Wednesday, Atkins led a group of counselors and CTE teachers to a local business for a tour.
The group included North Surry counselors Hayley Zurita and James Moore, East Surry counselors Kerry Crotts and Renee Henry, Early College counselor Heather Matthews, career development coordinator Dale Badgett, career coach Crystal Folger-Hawks, and CTE instructional management and special populations coordinator Paula Brinkley.
The educators met at Nester Hosiery to learn about the business and how they could help counsel students on career and college planning.
Frankie Vernon, human resources director, gave the group an in-depth tour and discussed the many job opportunities there. Nester Hosiery started in 1993 and is a family-owned sock manufacturer. He noted that its Farm to Feet product line is 100-percent American-made, from the Merino wool to the cardboard box the product is shipped in.
At the recent meeting of the Board of Education, Robert Draughn, director of plant operations, discussed the bid process for roof work at one of the middle schools.
Draughn said that Meadowview Magnet’s gym needs work. The waterproof membrane has been on the roof since its construction in 2000, he said. That’s 18 years of use when these membranes typically last about 15 years.
He said it has been “a pretty constant repair battle” to patch up seams that have been ripping open and allowing leaks over the past year and a half.
Over the summer the project was put out for bids, and four companies sent in their bids, said Draughn. However, three of the four didn’t follow the state’s bidding requirements and had to be rejected.
What kind of problems were there, asked the school board. It was just technical details, he replied, such as including a state license number for the business.
That left AAR Roofing as the only complete bid at $42,152.
Draughn reminded the board that this roof issue was brought up during spring budget meetings and that the money for this work already had been set aside in the 2018-19 budget.
The board voted to approve the bid for the project.
• In other school news, the board of education congratulated Jennifer Gonzalez as the September employee of the month. Gonzalez works as an English Learners teaching assistant at Copeland and Dobson elementary schools.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.