I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Escambia County Schools— The Cutting Edge Nationally on Career Academies/Workforce Training

Not long after I took office as the Escambia County School Board Member for district 1, a three-part series of articles came out in the Wall Street Journal on Education. I remember that at that time (January 2007) I discussed these articles on a number of occasions with several people within the district, including Superintendent Jim Paul. The three part series contained some thought provoking (some might consider controversial) ideas on the state of the Education Industry in America, and how intelligence plays an important role in students’ success. (One reason for the controversial nature of this series of WSJ articles was that the author, Charles Murray, was a co-author of the lightning rod 1994 bestseller “The Bell Curve.”)

Part two of this contentious three part WSJ series dealt with the idea of vocational/workforce education as a valid alternative for some students. From the article:

“The spread of wealth at the top of American society has created an explosive increase in the demand for craftsmen. Finding a good lawyer or physician is easy. Finding a good carpenter, painter, electrician, plumber, glazier, mason--the list goes on and on--is difficult, and it is a seller's market. Journeymen craftsmen routinely make incomes in the top half of the income distribution while master craftsmen can make six figures. They have work even in a soft economy. Their jobs cannot be outsourced to India”

The complete article can be found here:

I have long believed that the cookie cutter mentality on educational success, i.e. every student must go to college, is fundamentally flawed; America is a great country, with opportunities for success available by more that one avenue----to include learning a trade or a career that can be utilized throughout one's life. I think some students are extremely well served by learning a trade and starting their own businesses--in lieu of College.

I begin this blog entry with the above information/opinion to frame the discussion of what we in the Escambia County School District are doing with respect to career academies and vocational education as a supplement to traditional academic education. Locally we are way ahead of the curve, on the leading edge of a growing movement nationwide to train the next generation of American Workers. Our district has teamed up with The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce to expand our career academies; Currently we have 31 different Career Academies in Escambia County High Schools, and 2 in our Middle Schools. In September, 2007, We received significant accolades and a $20,000.00 grant from the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company in recognition of our excellent Workforce Education Program. (We were one of only a handful of districts nationwide to earn this distinction. ) Since that time we have continued to move forward and make strides in Workforce Training. Just this week, our efforts were recognized in the national Chamber of Commerce Executive Magazine. The article can be viewed at:

In Escambia County, we are making great strides in many areas, career education being one. This above Chamber of Commerce article illustrates the type of recognition that we garner---and need to show the public. We are a progressive, forward thinking district with a lot to offer. We need to spotlight these types of achievements as a counterbalance to the seemingly endless negative coverage we receive from the local uninformed media. We do have areas that we need to continue to improve--- and we continue to aggressively attack areas that need improvement--- but those locally that are truly in the know realize that great things are happening in our district---and these great things continue to benefit all of the students in our schools.

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