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Meade County Schools wins KSBA PEAK Award

The Kentucky School Boards Association will present Meade County school district officials with the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Meade County College and Career Center.

The PEAK Award, given twice yearly, was established in 1997 to focus statewide attention on outstanding public school efforts that enhance student learning skills and promote the positive impact of public elementary and secondary education in Kentucky.

The Meade County Board of Education invested $20 million to renovate its area technology center – nearly doubling the facility’s footprint – in order to provide more options for its students and community members

The result is the Meade County College and Career Center (MCCCC), which serves the district’s high school students during the day and functions as the Meade County Campus of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC) in the evening.

“I’ve been very intentional in talking with our board that the investment is $20 million because we see it as something that’s only going to give a return,” said Meade County Superintendent John Millay, noting the facility provides a place for students and community members to learn skills that will help them earn a living.

“This district really needs to be rewarded for its innovative thinking about utilizing the building as a community college facility. Not only are they increasing the education of their district students, but the community as a whole,” said PEAK judge Sherry Robinson, a member of KSBA’s Board of Directors and the chairwoman of the Floyd County school board.

In 2015, the Meade County school board adopted a policy requiring that each student, beginning with the Class of 2020, complete a career pathway in order to graduate. The district offers nearly 30 career pathways at MCCCC. In many of those pathways, students can complete industry certifications and earn credit toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. 

“The hands-on training and real certification make this program so beneficial to students,” said PEAK judge Kathy Gosnell, KSBA’s human relations specialist/staff accountant.

‘Starving for workforce’
The technology center renovation included upgrades to existing manufacturing bay areas and the addition of space for the existing pre-nursing and entrepreneurship programs. It also included 50,000 square feet of new space for four additional programs.

District staff worked with local and regional industry partners to determine which programs were most in-demand in the area and what select training and essential equipment students needed.

“Business industries are just starving for workforce, and some high-quality, high-paying jobs are available in this state and this region, even locally here,” said Marcus Adams, Meade County’s assistant superintendent. “This wonderful asset and equipment will provide some services to that starving industry workforce.”

According to the district’s PEAK nomination, Meade County’s rate of working age adults with at least an associate degree was 23.5 percent in December 2016. The goal is to increase the rate to 32 percent by next December and 39 percent by December 2021.

ECTC began evening classes at the center this fall. While the school district funded the project through bonding, the college provided input from its professors on what technology should be in the building.

Millay suspects many Meade County graduates will enroll at ECTC because they will be familiar with the building and teachers.

Preparatory seniors also must complete the three WorkKeys tests associated with the National Career Readiness Certificate. The number of students earning the certification has increased each year from 2013 to 2018.

Career pathways
In addition to the renovation costs, the school board funded five additional teachers in order to offer more pathways at the center.

“There has been some financial responsibility, and decisions and investment,” Adams said. “We really call it an investment though when we seek out these five additional positions because we see the result from it being priceless for our students.

“This is a school board investment that for decades to come will impact generations of families here in this region.”

Before a career pathway was required, students could take a hodgepodge of electives and didn’t always complete a pathway.

“Now, a full career pathway is more than just learning to weld over the course of four years, but it’s learning those employability skills,” Adams said.

In her PEAK nomination letter, Sharon Popham wrote that each of her five children have benefited from the district’s career pathway options, noting “they have also earned credentials/certifications that gave them employability skills they were able to put to great use right after graduation.”

Two of Popham’s children earned HVAC certifications and another received certification through the automotive program. The other two are pursuing multimedia and business paths.

“The curriculum in the programs has been rigorous and aligned with state and national certification requirements,” she said. “They have had hands-on experience and real-life work examples to help balance their education.”
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