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Local officials meet with Governor on education, workforce development project

Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and other local officials met with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to share plans for an education and workforce development project in the works for Carter County students.
The proposal is a collaboration between Carter County government, the Carter County School System, Northeast State Community College, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton. On Thursday, representatives from all four partner agencies met with Gov. Lee to share their ideas and seek support from the state to see them implemented. Those attending the meeting included Mayor Woodby, Commissioner Daniel McInturff, Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Tracy McAbee, TCAT Elizabethton President Dean Blevins, TCAT Elizabethton Vice President Danny O’Quinn, Northeast State Community College Dean of Science Chris Hitechew, and Northeast State Community College Professor Nathanial Weber.
“We are very excited about the opportunities this project will create for our students in Carter County, and we are thrilled that Governor Lee is supportive of our goals,” Mayor Woodby said. “This is a chance for us to invest in our students and give them a first chance at success instead of waiting until something unfortunate happens and they end up in trouble and needing a second chance.”
The proposal has three components which will work hand-in-hand to improve educational and workforce development initiatives for Carter County.
The first component is the development of a centralized Career and Technical Education (CTE) campus for Carter County High Schools at the Workforce Development Complex. This will allow students access to any of the CTE programs, not just specific ones at their school or part of the transport offerings. It will also help decrease program duplication by not having to offer the same program at four different sites. By cutting back on program duplication, that will free up resources to begin offering new CTE programs.
The second component is the newly developed Summit Project in the Carter County School System through a partnership with Northeast State Community College. Through this project, students can access special dual enrollment opportunities which will allow them to earn an Associate’s Degree at the same time they earn their high school diploma.
The third component is the development of a true dual enrollment program between Carter County Schools and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Elizabethton which will allow high school students to participate in dual enrollment with TCAT and earn their career certification while earning their high school diploma.
“Governor Lee was very supportive of our plan and said he was impressed by the cooperative effort by everyone involved to make this happen for our students,” Mayor Woodby said. “This project has the potential to have not only a local impact, but a regional and state impacts as well.”
During the meeting on Thursday, State Senator Rusty Crowe, State Senator Jon Lundberg, State Rep. Scotty Campbell, and State Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. were in attendance as well and voiced their support for the project, including their intention to draft legislation to create a Pilot Program for dual enrollment opportunities at TCAT.
“I am very proud of Mayor Woodby, our Director of Schools Dr. Tracy McAbee, our TCAT, and Northeast State Community College for coming together and making this project possible for our students,” Sen. Crowe said. “I think we had a very productive meeting with Governor Lee, and this project goes right along with his plans for CTE programs for our students.
“This is very exciting to me as our students that are graduating from high school will actually be able to graduate with college level skills and training because they worked hard using the dual enrollment process,” he added.
Senator Lundberg also expressed his support of the initiative.
“I am very proud of the strong regional cooperation that’s taking plans and turning those plans into action,” Sen. Lundberg said.
The project is also getting support from the other side of the State Legislature.
“This has clear potential to help students and build a stronger workforce for Northeast Tennessee,” said Rep. Campbell. “I hope the State can partner with Carter County to make this a reality.”
Rep. Holsclaw also offered praise for the project.
“Leaders from our community have really developed a great idea by thinking outside of the box to create a middle college idea that would greatly benefit our youth as well as businesses across all of East Tennessee,” Holsclaw said.
Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy and Washington County Director of Schools Jerry Boyd also attended the meeting to lend their support for the project which they believe has the potential to impact the region as well.
“Any time you can get 45 minutes with the Governor it is a big deal. The mayors in our region are focused on presenting a regional face any time we deal with the folks in Nashville,” Mayor Grandy said. “I’m supporting this project for two reasons. First, what benefits one county in the first development district impacts all counties in the first district. Both directors of schools from Washington and Carter counties were at the meeting along with representatives from Northeast State and the Elizabethton TCAT. Many legislators from our region were in the room as well.”
“We make a bigger impact when we all work together as a region,” Grandy added. “Second, improving workforce development is a strategic goal for Washington County. This project presents a significant opportunity to enhance the workforce not only in Carter County but the region.”