A college and career academy in Troup County would be the product of community input and public-private partnerships, local leaders said at a town hall meeting Monday.
Ricky Wolfe, Troup County Commission chairman and member of the Center for Strategic Planning, was one of three speakers at Monday’s meeting. The Center for Strategic Planing has spurred the discussion of creating a college and career academy locally. The center is a non-profit group made up of representatives from county-wide governments, businesses and groups, and it recently approved hiring Russ Moore, who also spoke at the meeting, as a consultant for creating a local academy.
Wolfe said the goal of a college and career academy would be to augment and add to offerings of the current school system. It was not envisioned to take away funding or compete with the school system’s offerings.
Although Troup County has created many jobs and had a massive amount of economic development in recent years, the availability of local workers qualified for those jobs is small. Employers have told Wolfe that many locals who apply for jobs lack the technical skills and basic social and business skills needed for employment.
He stressed that the academy’s curriculum would be structured based on input from the community.
“If Troup County ever has a college and career academy, it will be because of the industry and educators and parents and children and governments of this community that deemed it so,” Wolfe said.
Moore pointed out that about 100 people had come out to the meeting, the most he’d ever seen at an initial meeting for a college and career academy. Moore has consulted in the creation of more than 20 college and career academies across the state.
A college and career academy is not an alternative or vocational school, or a program only for certain students, but offers additional education for any students who want to take it. The academy would be setup as a charter school with the approval of the Troup County School System, and its charter will be decided through community input in the coming months.
The academy would not have full-time students or confer degrees, rather it would take students from the school system for certain classes and programs. Students may attend the academy two or three times per week while still being regular school system employee. Wolfe said it likely would be housed in an existing building, and Moore said it wouldn’t even necessarily need to be limited to a central location, but possibly as programs at different schools.
“It will be inextricably linked and embedded within the existing traditional public school system with additional partners,” Moore said of the academy’s functional position in the school system. “It will be run as a non-profit corporation by those same partners, including the Board of Education. That partnership will reflect, in every possible way, the community of Troup County, and it will be … for all students.”
Moore said the charter of the academy will basically be a contract for goals and accountability that also allows a waiver to give the academy flexibility and the ability to do things quickly and “with common sense” outside of traditional state and federal education mandates. College and career academies are currently the quickest-growing segment of charter schools in Georgia, he said, with 26 established.
The academy would be governed by a board approved by the Board of Education, Moore said. The academy would be evaluated by a process called ADDIE, which stands for analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate. The process is cyclical, so the program constantly will be analyzed, re-evaluated and updated.
Attendees of the town hall meeting all wrote down questions and suggestions for the academy, which was collected by the Center for Strategic Planning. Moore said one of the next steps is to implement an online process for people to give input on what they would like to see in the academy, including employers telling the group what they want to see in potential employees.
Page Estes, the third speaker at the meeting and president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, said she has been asked to be chairman of a steering committee that will help create the goals and define the charter of the academy. She said as a representative of the Chamber, which has more than 900 business members, she hears the call for more qualified local workers.
One attendee, during a question-and-answer session, said that the academy would be ineffective if industry leaders are not allowed to come into classrooms and tell students what they need from employees. Estes said that is one aspect that could be implemented in the academy, since local business will help develop the goals and direction.
She said that local business leaders and community members will need to give their input to the committee and Center for Strategic Planning in order to guide the academy’s curriculum. Like Wolfe, she stressed that the offerings of the academy will be determined by people in the community.
“We need each of you to provide input when receive surveys, but also to serve on steering committees,” Estes told business leaders, adding that the future of the academy will be determined by the input. “… So much of it’s going to come from dialogue and conversations we have when we pull together a diverse groups of people from this community to look at an issue and determine the best point of action.”