'Cutting edge' college and career programs receive state grants

January 10, 2014

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Sometimes it’s the extras that keep teenagers coming to school when they’d rather be almost anywhere else. Programs in art, music, digital media, robotics and others can be powerful draws to keep students coming to class.

The state department of education has awarded 67 grants to high schools and school districts to develop innovative programs in those areas as well as in traditional academic subjects that are aligned to Common Core State Standards.

Tony Quirarte, an education programs consultant at the department, said the 154 applications submitted to share in $3.3 million Specialized Secondary Programs grants “ran a full spectrum of types of programs.”

Nearly all the grantees received $50,000, the maximum amount, to start planning their projects, which State Superintendent Tom Torlakson described as “cutting-edge programs” that allow students to “explore areas of study in a deeper way while developing their talents and skills for college or career.” They’re also expected to be model programs for other state high schools.

High school students in Ventura County would be able to learn how to design and possibly “fly” unmanned aerial vehicles, essentially drones, in a two-year program funded by the grant the County Office of Education is planning in conjunction with the local airport. The technology would be useful in the agriculture industry and in search and rescue operations, said Tiffany Morse, director of career education for the County Office of Education. She said the county would also like to arrange dual credit with California State University Channel Islands.

John Swett High School in Crockett will use the money to add a machine maintenance program to its existing career academy. Principal Jeff Brauning said the school is partnering with Phillips 66 and Chevron, two local industries with a huge need for workers trained in rigging and hydraulic technology. Students who pass will earn an industry standard certification that can get them in the door of a job with a starting salary between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.

Brauning said although Common core is about college and career readiness, “we recognize that not everybody goes to college and they need to have some skills and training to go into a career that’s high paying and in demand.”

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