SPS provides Career and Technical Education update

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2024

As 2024 begins, Suffolk Public Schools provided its Careers and Technical Education Report during its Thursday, Dec. 14 School Board work session. 

During the meeting, Suffolk Public School CTE Director Andre Skinner provided updates to the School Board while detailing the functions of the CTE Advisory Council, data from recent school years and more.

“Part of the most important functions that we do on our CTE Advisory Board Council is the review of the annual CTE plan. Many of you know it as the Federal Perkins Plan. They also come in and they recommend classroom equipment, instructional materials, assist and placement of students and co-op programs. It’s probably the most important one that I kind of push,” Skinner said. “Also, persons on the advisory council, I have a need for them to inform the school of the industry needs from the businesses that are actually within our community.”

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Skinner says that one of the biggest things he asks of the Advisory Council is for them to come in and suggest new equipment, objectives, and ideas from their expertise working in the business/industry world to students to enhance their classroom opportunities.

Alongside SPS, the Advisory Council Membership features 20 of Suffolk’s namestays, including AMADAS Industries, Camp Community College, City of Suffolk Economic Development, Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, Lake Prince Woods, The Children’s Center and the Workforce Development Center. 

Skinner listed some previous student events that the council designed to help students. The Professional Students Conference was designed to help introduce students to the Suffolk business community while enhancing their knowledge of workplace expectations and providing opportunities for identifying a career focus. Likewise, the Career Expo provided mock interview opportunities for students to improve interview skills with Hampton Roads area employers. 

Skinner also noted 21 Student Conference Business Participants, including 

Chick-Fil-A, the Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Old Dominion University, Sentara Healthcare, and more, saying these are some of the biggest “proponents” for Career and Technical Education.

“Many of which have decided to pull some of our students in and give them opportunities as interns. AMADAS, specifically, set up strategic internships just for our students. We’re in the third year of that program. Each year they pull in at least two of our students and two of our students end up having full-time jobs,” Skinner said. “So I think we’re now up to three that actually remain and they’re sticking with it, so they’re no longer Suffolk Public Schools students as in the high school age, they are now adults making full-fledged salaries.”

Skinner also provided Virginia Department of Education School Report Card Data with totals of Kings Fork High School, Lakeland High School and Nansemond River High for the 2022-2023 and 2021-2022 school years. 

For 2022-2023, Occupation Assessments Passed was a total of 367 with Industry Certifications Achieved at 1615. Workplace Readiness Skills Assessments Passed totaled at 404 while Total Credentials Achieved was at 2386. The total for Students Earning One or More Credentials was at 1830.

For 2022-2021, the number of occupation assessments passed was 330, with industry certifications achieved at 1662. Workplace Readiness Skills Assessments Passed totaled at 325 with Total Credentials Achieved at 2317. Students earning one or more credentials totaled 1804. 

“Normally, we don’t want to compare years because it’s not like SOL data. A lot of times, industry credentials are based on the enrollment of students. Students not only enroll in CTE electives, but there’s also fine art electives that are there and present as well,” Skinner said. “So a lot of times, enrollment will drive the number of students that are inside of our programs and whether or not they’re in Part I, Part II, depending on the career pathways, will determine whether or not they’re taking said industry credentials.”

670 of all students were listed as achieving a 100 competency attainment rate for the CTE Completer Competency Attainment Rates. For the CTE Completer Industry Testing Rates for the same school year, the number of completers taking tests were at 667 with 622 as the number of completers passing tests. Their participation rate was at 99.55, with a pass rate of 93.25.

Also featured in the presentation was the CTE’s Project Lead the Way Program, which had Lakeland and Nansemond River High School recognized as PLTW Distinguished Schools for the 2022-2023 school year with the SPS division being honored for providing students with the program’s Biomedical and Engineering pathways. Nansemond River High School teacher Jason Bartholomew also won W!se’s 2022-2023 Financial Literacy Certification Gold Star Teacher Award for having a class achieve a 93 percent passing rate on the W!se Financial Literacy Certification Test. Likewise, the S.T.A.R. (Start Today and Rise) program was launched for rising 2023-2024 Junior and Seniors and provided opportunities for a High-Quality Work Based Learning Experience with a starting pay of $14.46. The 2023-2024 school year program will have a new starting pay of $15.11.

Following the presentation, School Board members provided comments on the report. School Board Member Karen Jenkins gave Skinner positive feedback on their program.

“This is what we are doing here in Suffolk Public Schools, so I commend you. I commend the teachers and all that’s in charge and we just want to get the parents excited about this too, not just the students,” Jenkins said. “We need the parents to get excited because your children can have a job, where it’s working on cars or whatever, that’s a great field… and we’re offering that. So thank you so much for what you’re doing and if there’s anything that we can do to even you help advertise it even more, just let us know.”

School Board Dawn Marie Brittingham also commended Skinner’s work.

“I’m really happy to see this report, particularly for our students with disabilities. I’m really impressed that we are bringing them in and keeping them and their success rate is higher than it’s ever been,” Brittingham said. “So I commend you on that and this program, but for all of your students, you’re doing a good job and thank you so much.”

Lastly, School Board Member Phyllis Byrum gave positive feedback to Skinner for his work, noting how he was one of her former students and how proud he has made her for his work for the school.

“He’s one of our homegrown Nansemond River graduates and has done so much for CTE in our school system,” Byrum said. “I thank you Andre for the job well done, that you continue to do.”

The CTE Advisory Council will hold their next meetings on February 6 and April 16.