Career tech and traditions part of schools’ agenda

J. Patrick Eaken

        Local school officials say they are still having a hard time convincing parents that their children do not necessarily need to go to college to have a good career choice.
        “We’re working with our business partners as much as possible to expand our career-readiness programs as much as possible so that students and families understand the new expanding career opportunities available,” Oregon City Schools Superintendent Hal Gregory said. “Parents still don’t understand the opportunities that are out there that are not college.”
        “I’m not taking away from college; we want all the kids we can to go on and do what they can,” he said. “There are so many opportunities, it is amazing, but we still have families that don’t buy into it. We’re working hard to help those families and those kids understand what is available moving forward.”
        Gregory joined two other local school superintendents, one high school principal and a Catholic school president in talking about career choices at the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Communities breakfast at Mercy Health – St. Charles Hospital Wednesday morning.
        Waite High School was recently named a career tech academy for construction. Through that academy, the school is working with a number of unions, like Local 315 (Carpenters), Local 50 (Pipefitters), Local 3 (Bricklayers), Local 7 (Painters and Finishers), Local 33 (Sheet Metalists), Local 134 (Roofers) and has a new relationship with Local 18 (Operating Engineers). The school was also able to bring back welding classes to its curriculum this year.
        “With all of that, we usually have two to three seniors who are out in the workforce as part of our auto-tech, which is auto body at Waite High School,” Waite Principal Todd Deem said. “We also have six to 10 seniors who are out in the carpentry field working with local agencies, local companies, and they go through the trades.
        “They go through the carpenters, usually on draft day, where they go downtown to The Roost and they get involved with local companies, like Rudoph-Libbe, and all those folks are there trying to draft our students from Toledo Public Schools,” Deem said.
        “It’s not the career tech that it was 30-plus years ago when I graduated,” Deem continued. “It’s a whole different world now, and I think that folks are learning that and knowing that new trade and new opportunities really will go a long way for students here in Northwest Ohio, especially in our communities.”
        Gregory says students, and his own staff, need to relearn organizational skills for today’s world, and that’s why OCS is implementing a newly developed cultural playbook.
        “Culture in an organization drives everything. OCS believes in three core beliefs to get where we are — one, we have a passion for growth and owning it when you make a mistake. These are strategies and behaviors we are training on now with staff members and in the future with our students,” he said.
        “The whole point of this is a direct response to what we’ve heard from many from you – that our students just don’t have the skills necessary – soft skills, if you will, to interact,” Gregory told breakfast attendees. “They can get a job if they can just stay off drugs and if they can interact with people who are already ahead. That hurts.
        “We’re taking a very structured approach to that and we’re really focusing on this ‘E plus R equals O' formula, which is there are events in our lives, there are responses we have to those events, and then there are outcomes. We want positive outcomes. There is a whole message and theory behind that.
        “The way kids need to learn today is different,” he said. “Their jobs are different; the expectations are different, and we’re in the middle of a major transformation about how we do what we look at what we do every single day.”
New partnerships
        At Waite, Deem says partnerships are key to certain areas of learning, and one of those connects the high school students with local businesses to provide family outreach.
        “We have partnerships with the East Toledo Family Center and Toledo Refinery. We’re happy to do an Early Literacy Program, so we work with those early and emergent readers and their families at birth all the way through usually 6-years-old with the Family Center,” Deem said.
        Another success story at Waite is the graduation rate, which is on the increase.
        “One of the things you’ve heard a lot about high schools as well is graduation rates. There are a number of things that go into graduation rates. So, in 2017, we were at 59.8 percent for graduating seniors. In 2018, we were at 67.3 percent, and last year, which is not on this year’s report card because they are a year behind, we are at 70.1,” Deem said.
        “We’ve made some steady progress in our graduation rate. We have to keep them on track. The goal is always 75 percent; there are a number of factors, a number of struggles obviously,” he said.
        Another key talking point at the breakfast was the importance that tradition plays at local schools, for students, staff and alumni.
        “We talk a little about traditions at Waite High School – the blood drive, which has been around for decades, about 60 years or so,” Deem said. “We also work with the East Toledo Family Center and the Salvation Army and we had our 88th year of Christmas baskets.
        “One other one that is pretty impressive is, this will be our 105th Memorial Day program, so for 105 years we’ve been doing our Memorial Day program to thank our veterans and families for their service. We’ve changed the date on that — we’ll go back to the Thursday before Memorial Day. Everybody is welcome to attend,” he said.
        Lake Local Schools also initiated a program to honor veterans this year.
        “About three or four years ago. we put a group together who undertook a huge task finding the names of every person who has ever lived in our district or attended our schools who served in the military in some capacity,” said Lake Superintendent Jim Witt.
        “Last May, we put together a veterans’ wall and had an unveiling. We had about 350 people in the cafeteria, and I know that I’m old-fashioned and all-that, but it was maybe the coolest event that I’ve ever had an opportunity to be a part of,” he said. “To honor those people who have meant so much to all of us across our country throughout so many generations, was just really a great evening.”


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