CCHS students outpace region in CTE credits


Career and technical education classes have become increasingly popular with local students

by: BILL MINTIENS - CTE Teachers at CCHS (L to R) Rick Kramer (Natural Resources), Dan McNary (Agriculture), Macy Hagensee (Culinary Arts), Ryan Cochran (Health Occupations), Michelle Jonas (Principal at CCHS).

Career and Technical Education programs have experienced significant growth over the last couple of years at Crook County High School.

So much so that CCHS students have earned far more CTE college credits than any other Central Oregon high school.

For the 2012-2013 school year, CCHS students earned 449 credits. Bend High School came in second with 320. Mountain View High students (Bend) earned 251. No other school earned more than 200.

CCHS' college credits would have been even higher had two of their most popular programs been included in the 2012-2013 data - manufacturing and engineering, and business.

Both programs were new and, before college credits can be recognized, the Oregon Department of Education must approve the teacher, his/her personal course work, the curriculum, and the local advisory board that the teacher assembles, to insure the curriculum is appropriate to the needs of the marketplace.

The manufacturing and engineering program was cut in 2009 as a result of budget shortfalls. In 2012, CCHS received a $234,000 21st Century Job Education grant from the State of Oregon to establish a manufacturing and engineering class. This grant provided funding for new equipment as well as a new teacher, Billy Hall, for the 2012-2013.

As difficult as it was to cut the manufacturing and engineering program in 2009, the school district and the school board never lost sight of its importance to Crook County.

"When we looked to bring back programs (for the 2013-2013 school year) we looked to the needs of our community and we worked with Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), it was clear that we needed to bring back the manufacturing and engineering program," said Michelle Jonas, principal at CCHS.

"And one of the goals of the school board is CTE programming because they see the importance of the program to Crook County students."

The business program's first year was also 2012-2013. Funding came partly from the U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant, which also helped to fund the building of COCC's Open Campus in Prineville. The grant also supported the hiring of a new teacher, Steve Hodges.

Students earn CTE college credits through enrollment in courses that have been articulated with two community colleges - Central Oregon Community College and Linn-Benton Community College.

CTE programs of study at CCHS include agriculture, business, culinary arts, health occupations, natural resource management, and manufacturing and engineering.

Jonas is proud of the CTE programs and attributes the growth to a basic understanding of Crook County students' needs.

"CTE gives students options -- not every kid is going to go to college. Our goal here at CCHS is to make students both career and college ready so, regardless of what path they choose, they'll be ready."

CTE college credits can be earned by both career-oriented and college-bound students.

"CTE has been sparking interest in a variety of students, not just the career-oriented students but also college-bound kids. It encourages kids who are ahead in total credits to explore other careers," said Jonas.

Rick Kramer, CCHS's CTE Natural Resource Management teacher, understands the importance of college-level courses for his students.

"The classes are truly a stepping-stone opportunity for college experiences while still in high school, as these classes are all taught at the Crook County COCC Open Campus. This facility offers an inspiring atmosphere and it allows the students the chance to step out from the high school setting and get a true sense that they are attending college courses."

Kramer's students also experience, first-hand, what working in the field is all about.

"Recently we worked with the Crook County Soil and Water Conservation District to restore a section of the Ochoco Creek stream bank near the Prineville Country Club. We have established a Natural Resource Management Education Consortium that allows for integration of class work with real-world work by coordinating guest speakers and field projects."

Participation in CTE classes is not restricted to high school students. Students in middle school are now being taught, one period each day, by CCHS's manufacturing and engineering teacher Billy Hall.

"Billy Hall is introducing middle school students to robotics one period every day now. The kids love it and it's a wonderful introduction to CTE," said Jonas.

Perhaps the real advantage of CTE programs in the Crook County School District is that they provide students with an opportunity to explore future life paths.

Jonas agrees, saying, "Sure, these classes help students learn the work experiences they may need, but they also give kids an opportunity to explore different careers to see if they are a good fit for them."

CTE programming is not set-in-stone at CCHS. There are other elements of CTE that the school would like to add in the future.

"The one thing we would like to add back to CTE is art. We have drama and band/choir right now, but not an art-based program which includes things like industrial design and computer-based arts programs," said Jonas.

While funding new programs is always a concern, one thing is certain at CCHS. CTE programs will continue to be popular and both CCHS and the school board will find ways to prepare students for future career opportunities.

"I'd like the community to realize that there are good things coming out of CCHS, that we are preparing kids for both college and careers, and that the variety and amount of CTE college credits coming out of CCHS is incredible!" said Jonas.