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DHS, business leaders want to collaborate

Kelleigh Ratzlaff instructs students during a cooking course at Dallas High School.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
Kelleigh Ratzlaff instructs students during a cooking course at Dallas High School.

Editor’s note: This is the final story in a series exploring Dallas High School’s career and technical education program. This week we hear from the education and business leaders who are guiding its growth.

DALLAS — If the education and business leaders developing Dallas High School’s career and technical education program have their way, all the work done in the last year is just the tip of the iceberg.

Superintendent Michelle Johnstone’s vision for the programs is make to Dallas an example for other school districts with its partnership with Chemeketa Community College to offer classes to students. Instead of trying to replicate CTE facilities in programs offered in bigger school districts, she pursued the collaborative model.

That allows the district to quickly adjust to market or student needs.

“Going this direction gives us a flexibility, too, so we aren’t tied into a facility,” Johnstone said. “If we start seeing kids moving toward engineering and continuing to get that feedback, then we can be a little bit more flexible in the programs that we offer.”

By the time Tim Ray, the DHS CTE coordinator, was hired, Johnstone already had an idea of the direction she wanted to go. Ray started working on the partnerships to make that happen.

“I toured Chemeketa and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the main campus,” she said.

In her mind, the high school didn’t need to replicate what was already available in the region — or even across the DHS parking lot at Chemeketa’s Polk Center.

Dallas and Chemeketa worked out a unique way of paying for the instruction the community college provides.

“Rather than paying per credit, we are doing something a little bit different where we buy the instructor’s time,” Johnstone said.

That makes the classes significantly less expensive for students, she said.

Glen Miller, the director of the center, said the partnership is working well. He said students have adjusted quickly to taking on college classes.

“What we’ve found is that we aren’t getting a lot of students over here just testing the water,” he said. “They’ve expressed an interest and are really starting to get that focus. I’ve talked to all our instructors who have taught classes this fall term, and they think the students are absolutely fantastic.”

Miller believes next year should include more students. This year, the courses taught by Chemeketa in business, engineering and health science were not available until after students had began setting their schedules.

“We’ve talked about somewhere in January or February, before (student schedule) forecasting to start looking at what other programs might we be able to pull in based on student interest,” Miller said.

Ray, too, is looking ahead to next year. He’s planning to introduce two new programs in the 2018-19 school year, education and theater arts. He said the district doesn’t have to design the programs from the bottom up because components of CTE programs are offered in current classes. They just need to be refined.

Teacher assistant classes can be redesigned to have students co-teaching with middle and elementary school teachers and the theater program already has a class in which students produce a show, he said.

Meanwhile, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee — a group of Dallas education and business representatives — is making plans for the program’s future.

Kal Anderson, a member of the group and the general manager at Mak Metals, said designing the “employability score” is important work, for business owners and students.

The score would measure non-academic traits such as work ethic and professionalism in the work place.

The committee has broken up into teams to create definitions and scoring methods for each facet of the score. He volunteered to work on “fundamentals,” such as getting to work on time. Anderson said that is a great need.

“We as a company have had to work around and create our own program to teach those fundamentals,” Anderson said.

He said it’s not just recent high school graduates that lack the knowledge of what it means to be a professional. He said he’s had to mentor workers twice his age about the importance of those traits to keeping a job.

“The benefit to the employer is you have more educated kids that you can easily hire and not have to worry about if they are … not fit or prepared for this job,” Anderson said.

While he believes the group is making good progress, the full benefit of the new programs won’t be seen for years to come.

“I think we’re getting there,” he said. “There isn’t a whole instant return on all this. We can’t say we need all these programs and boom, we have them. We have to look for funding, we have to reteach all the teachers. There’s a time investment on the school district side and there’s investment for industry. We have to be able to be convinced of the benefit as well.”

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