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SSD, Parkway discuss future of technical career education

tech school studentThe Special School District and Parkway are among school districts being encouraged to expand and improve the region’s focus on career and technical education.

That recommendation came as the result of a SSD review committee. State law mandates a Public Review Committee be appointed every four years. Among its charges, the committee must conduct a thorough review of how effectively SSD is delivering services to students needing special education in cooperation with component districts like Parkway, said Bruce Major, a former Parkway board member and former board representative to SSD’s Governing Council who serves  on the SSD public review committee.

He and a panel of SSD and Parkway officials involved in the review presented recommendations to Parkway’s board of education at its meeting on Aug. 27.

One of the committee recommendations was that SSD should expand and improve the community’s focus on career and technical education by becoming the regional focus point for promoting and enhancing opportunities for that education, finding ways to encourage students to enroll in appropriate programs and improving education options available to students.

“While SSD runs North and South County Technical high schools, resources such as space and money are not available to greatly expand enrollment there, but we can expand the impact in school districts of career and tech opportunities for individual students,” Major said.

Major also told the board he feels the SSD name and its association with special education have been an impediment in the past to the delivery of career services at North Tech, as well as at South Tech, where Parkway students are most likely to attend.

Parkway Superintendent Keith Marty said about 125 Parkway students – mostly from Parkway South High – attended South Tech last year.

“It’s regrettable, but a real problem throughout West County is that some parents don’t want their kids associated with the SSD name – that pains me,” Major said.

Major said South Tech offers only part-day programs – unlike North Tech – due to not having enough students to support full-day programs.

However, Lisa Merideth, Parkway’s assistant superintendent for teaching, learning and accountability, said it was important to increase school counselors’ and teachers’ understanding of the “rich and rigorous” opportunities that are available at SSD’s technical high schools.

“There’s no way Parkway could duplicate the opportunities available at SSD’s technical high schools,” Merideth said.

“We need to create more opportunities for our teachers to visit these schools to help them understand the rigor of programs there.”

Major said he felt the future of career and technical education will lie in partnership programs such as the Pre-Professional Health Sciences Academy, an elective course that exposes Parkway high school seniors interested in health and biomedical careers to professionals working in the field. Parkway and SSD provide staff for the effort.

Last year, Parkway’s board approved a partnership agreement between the district, BJC School Outreach and Youth Development and SSD to launch the course that combines classroom learning with job shadowing at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.

This year, Lindenwood University is also part of the program, providing classroom space, Major said.

“The way we currently do career and technical education is too piecemeal, and there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Major said.

“SSD has a model for delivery of career and tech education that is almost exclusively built around the two tech high schools, yet there are issues with those schools such as capacity and student transportation to South Tech.”

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