Op-Ed - Can our West County high schools offer job and career education and increase enrollment?
West County High School topic. At one of the first public board meetings on the potential consolidation of El Molino and Analy high schools, I mentioned the concept that rather than eliminate one school, perhaps we could make one school (El Molino) job and career education (vocational) and one (Analy) college prep (academic).
I got a lot of blow-back from people who wanted me to know that El Molino also excels in academics (not just Analy) - but that was not my point.
My goal was to keep both campuses open and functioning and to make our schools competitive with other high schools in Sonoma County. If we make our high schools excel at teaching students to enter adult life, will people CHOOSE our schools through inter-district transfers because the education we provide is what they want for their students? Would that INCREASE enrollment?
ALL students need to take academics in order to graduate. SOME will go on to college. MANY will go straight into jobs and even create their own businesses. Keeping students interested and engaged during high school has the potential to increase the number of students who graduate. The national average for just graduating is 85%...what if we could make that closer to 95% just by offering more classes that are relevant to getting jobs and running businesses?
College is expensive. Not all careers require a degree. Some people say 18-year-olds are not mature enough to go straight into life, they need the cushion of at least junior college if not a four-year college. But what about the ones who have no choice? They graduate high school and go straight to work.
Did they learn how to balance a budget and pay bills? Did they learn a trade that could get them a job or allow them to start a small business? Did they learn how to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves during their high school years? They need experience while they are in high school - not wait until after they graduate...IF they graduate.
Not all children have homes and families who can support them and teach them life skills. Not all families are secure and stable. Not all families can pay to keep everyone fed and sheltered then send them off to college. Not all kids have families.
El Molino has a LARGE campus capable of supporting a broad range of subjects, especially agriculture, which is a huge industry here in Sonoma County. It has a brand new Performing Arts Center, a career that doesn't require a degree...it requires skill, talent, and personal motivation. There's an excellent Culinary Arts & Hospitality program that is capable of sending students straight into a restaurant career...and has. Sports can be a career right out of high school for those who excel - or - it can be a college scholarship path for those at the top of their game both in athletics as well as academics. Can El Molino be the best CAREER PREP school in Sonoma County?
Check out the Sonoma County Office of Education publication on High School Career Pathways. Go to page 8 to see their list of careers with classes offered at high schools throughout Sonoma County. Could our West County High School have a school that offers classes in most or all of these career paths, and therefore attract students who know they will graduate and go to work right away? https://www.scoe.org/files/path_eng.pdf
COLLEGE PREP is exactly that. Classes are designed to prepare a student for more education. What if Analy focussed specifically on what it takes to get into a good college? Courses that will lead to more complex learning each year so that when they get to college they are ready for the next higher level of academic education. Logic, reasoning, strategy...how to research a topic in-depth. How to compile and analyze data. How to learn (this does not always come naturally). How to become fascinated with learning, which could lead to teaching, which DOES require a degree.
What careers REQUIRE a degree? Why not sample these careers while in high school...law, education, environmental science, government, healthcare, psychology, etc. High school becomes the opportunity to sample future careers that need Bachelors, Masters, and even a Doctorate degree. Teach samples of these potential careers so a high school student can find out if s/he is interested in or inspired by a career that MUST have a higher-education degree. Why wait until college to find out if a specific career is worth setting that long-term goal, saving money, applying for grants and scholarships, etc.?
By the time a student enters high school, one would hope that reading, writing, and math are rudimentary skills learned during elementary and middle school years. Take that basic education and enhance it, not just do more of it during high school. Make high school LIFE PREP offering a broad range of interests so students can find out what gets them excited. Most students literally count the years until graduating. What if they engaged in something that grabbed their interest so they wanted to learn more?
Can our West County high schools EXPAND in order to offer a better education to ALL kinds of students?
Can we use the money we gain from a Parcel Tax and TOT tax to find out, not just buy time?
What do YOU think?