Picking up steam… Team working to change dynamics of CTE programs in Carter County

Published 3:53 pm Friday, July 2, 2021

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With Carter County Schools already progressing with its Summit Project where there is an opportunity for rising juniors in all four of the county high schools through a partnership with Northeast State Community College to earn an associate’s degree before graduating high school, another program is hitting its stride in final stages of development for students wishing to get a technical certificate from TCAT in high school.

Mayor Patty Woodby hosted a meeting with State Senator Rusty Crowe, State Representative Scotty Campbell, representatives of Northeast State Community College, Dean Blevins and Danny O’Quinn of TCAT, Carter County Director of Schools Tracy McAbee, and others to discuss what the TCAT program’s next steps were.

Currently, the four county high schools have a total of 16 programs of study in CTE. The project would allow for all of the CTE classes to be centralized in one location where all county students have access to the programs offered.

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The area of focus is the Workforce Development Center located next door to TCAT.

Mayor Woodby had charged Tim Shaw and Tom Shanks with Shaw and Shanks Architects almost a year ago to start looking at what would be involved to renovate the building to allow for the project to move forward at the location.

During the meeting, Shaw informed those present that the price tag to do what is required to house the centralized campus while accommodating Northeast State’s needs would be $15.6 million dollars.

The Carter County School Board along with Dr. McAbee have already been discussing using money from school funds toward the project but are seeing if some funds that are going to be available statewide could be directed toward the project as well with the help of Senator Crowe, and Representatives Campbell and John Holsclaw.

“If we could get about eight to ten percent of kids who know that they are going to be a welder or going to be a machine shop worker, we can partner with TCAT to get that training,” said Dr. McAbee.

“Students can begin taking those advanced CTE classes in high school so that when they graduate high school, they will be a Carter County graduate but they will also have that welding diploma or whatever and be ready to make a decent living.

“It’s not going to be easy.”

Senator Crowe and Representative Campbell were both impressed with what they heard from the enthusiastic group in terms of what is trying to be set up for students and believe that once Governor Bill Lee hears from the group that it could very well serve as a pilot program for the entire state.

“We are really excited because there is a lot of energy right here in this room between Northeast State, the TCAT, and the Carter County School System,” said Senator Crowe after the meeting concluded. “We are really excited that they want to create a new program called The Summit Program where students can take dual enrollment college courses while they are in high school and actually get a certificate for a CTE class or nursing or one of those CTE courses or one of those associate’s degrees before they graduate high school.

“As they graduate high school, they would have that degree and be ready to go out there and work and get things done so Representative Campbell and Representative Holsclaw and I are going to try and put a pilot project together for counties up in this area so that we can access some of the Hope Scholarship dollars and some of the other grants to help pay for this sort of thing.”

Representatives Campbell and Holsclaw will be working to get the pilot put together and passed through the House while Senator Crowe and Senator Lundberg will work in the Senate.

The legislation will be filed in January with hopes that the pilot would be passed by April according to Senator Crowe.

“The Summit Project itself is a neat creation for the people in Northeast Tennessee to better prepare those folks for the local workforce as well if they decide to go somewhere else,” said Representative Campbell. “They could be employment-ready for what they want instead of going extra years once they graduate high school.”

Senator Crowe told the group that he would like to set up a meeting with Governor Lee in Nashville and let the group explain the concept to the governor whom Senator Crowe said should be thrilled to hear of something like this, especially with his past business background.

Mayor Woodby said after the meeting, “We want to give our children their first chance and not have to worry about giving them a second chance.”