An unusual spectacle took place in the Guilford County Board of Education chambers on North Eugene Street on Tuesday, Nov. 27: The school board was taken to task for doing everything wrong – and it listened.
The 5:30 p.m. event was the presentation to the school board of the results of the Blue Ribbon Task Force made up of representatives from Guilford County businesses, business organizations and colleges plus assorted educators trying to figure out why graduates of Guilford County Schools aren’t job-ready. Or to put it another way, why businesses in Guilford County have to look elsewhere for employees.
According to Guilford County Schools, the full name of the task force is simply Blue Ribbon Task Force.
The task force generated a five-year plan for integrating academics and job readiness under the rubric of “career and technical education.” Thirty years ago, that would have been shop class and apprenticeships. Today that means an array of high-tech skills, practical experience, industry certifications and apprenticeships.
The task force presentation was like innumerable others in the school board chambers over the years – except, oddly, it made sense.
The task force recommendation would result in a wholesale change in the way Guilford County Schools does business. It would also require higher standards for graduates, since employers want competence.
Institutional inertia is as strong as gravity in the school system, so don’t hold your breath for changes to start taking place. School Board member Pat Tillman, the board’s liaison for career and technical education, chaired the meeting. He pointed out the other main obstacle of the evening.
Tillman said, “What you won’t see in here today is price tags.” Guilford County Schools has generated many grand plans to increase the college readiness, the employability and even the literacy of its students. The results have been mixed and the price tags often unrealistic.
Randy Parker, the president of Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), said the task force resulted partly from a conversation he had with Guilford County School Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
Parker said, “The two of us saw that we had to do something different from what we had been doing.”
GTCC has about 800 students who graduated from Guilford County Schools. It is the main institution working to make many GCS students college-ready, so that they can transfer to four-year colleges.
Thanks for spending a little time at the meeting Tuesday Paul and I stress a “little time”. You took some liberties with your column and missed the real “meat” of our discussion. It’s important for your audience to understand that we (The Superintendent, CTE leaders, myself and others) helped form the Blue Ribbon Task Force to attack our workforce skills gap aggressively, and at the speed of relevance it requires. In addition, as chair of the CTE committee we have worked behind the scenes nearly two years in concert with our business leaders, community partners, community college leaders, etc. in order to build a strategy for a 5-year plan. It is my belief, as well as our District personnel that an overhaul of our CTE is absolutely necessary. Moreover; we formed this task force and partnered with the Chambers of Commerce, GTCC, NC A&T and other partners to shape the strategy unveiled at Tuesday evening’s work session as our first step of many to come. Bold it is, but it’s time we step out of the shadows of the status quo with respect to Career pathways for students. We must enter into this new frontier in identifying economic and workforce development trends of the local community, to support career pathway development, and to provide meaningful work-based learning opportunities for all students, lest we remain behind many of our southeast neighbors. I would be happy to chat more in-depth with you sometime.
Board of Education – District 3