Suffolk board tops state

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Suffolk Public Schools’ career and technical education advisory board was recognized for its work this year by the Virginia Department of Education.

The board was named at the top of its region, which includes all of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, and it was also named as the best CTE advisory board in Virginia.

The DOE recognized the board and other award recipients at a ceremony held in Richmond in June.


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The committee includes 20 members who represent the school division, the city, local businesses and other community organizations.

Harriette Arrington, advisory board vice chair and Paul D. Camp Community College academic dean, said it is a great honor for the board to be recognized at the state level.

“This award is a validation for us that we are doing the right things,” she said. “But it’s also a call of action for us to look for ways to affect more students.”

High school students enter the Suffolk Public Schools’ CTE program in order to explore and narrow down different career options they are interested in.

Arrington said the program is aimed at students who have an idea of what career field they want to enter but don’t know exactly what job they want.

The advisory board works with the school division’s CTE department, which is headed by Gail Bess, to develop programs to guide the students through career exploration.

“Our job is to assist, guide and support that career and technical education department,” Arrington said.

The DOE recognized the board specifically for conferences they plan each year for high school students.

There are three conferences held throughout the school year. The first is aimed at getting ninth graders to think about what they would like to do after they graduate.

The conference features seminars that cover topics such as current technology demands and educational requirements for certain careers.

The second event is a non-traditional careers conference aimed at 10th and 11th graders.

Arrington said this is the newest CTE conference, and in its three years of existence, it has been very successful.

For the event, the students are introduced to people who are in careers that are not usually associated with their demographic groups.

For example, the conference features male nurses and female mechanics.

“We’re trying to get them to think outside of the box,” Arrington said.

Finally, at the end of spring, seniors get an opportunity to prepare themselves for the career world at the career expo at which they participate in mock interviews with about 40 employers.

Arrington said advisory board members work almost exclusively on the development of the conferences every year.

She said the DOE named the board as the best in the state for these conferences.

“(The award) was for the concept of the three conferences per year that touches all four grade levels,” she said. “This package of student conferences is something that is not traditional for the state of Virginia.”

She added that without the help of Bess and Suffolk Public Schools, the board would not be as successful as it is.