Given the recent turn of events concerning the lawsuit filed by the former Career and Technical Education (CTE) Supervisor against the director of schools and board of education, a commissioner’s questions about CTE’s future seems almost to foreshadow the events to come.
District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines’ questioned Dr. Tim Setterlund, the director of schools, following his education report to Wilson County Commission at its monthly meeting about the future of the CTE program.
“Folks out in my district, we’re a rural area. The CTE program is very important to me,” Joines said. “I’ve had a lot of folks that are concerned with what the Common Core may do to the CTE.”
Joines went on to say that Wilson County has “the finest program in the state. We have the highest graduate rate in the state.”
He also commented that one of the graduates of the CTE program is currently the executive director over the grounds at the Congressional Golf Course in Bethesda, Md.
“These kids, some of them come from farms. Some of them come from subdivisions, and they might not have a chance to see how beehives work or have a chance to pick up a hammer, but when they do, they find their calling for life. I think their graduation rate shows the success of what we’ve been doing.”
Joines then asked Setterlund to explain a quote he saw attributed to the director, who has been on the job since July 1.
“It says, ‘If it ain’t broke, break it.’ That was a quote from you in the paper, and I want to just get you to tell me what you meant by that,” Joines said.
“I think that was a misquote by me,” Setterlund replied.
“That’s good. That’s good,” Joines said.
Setterlund then explained that the “intended message, when that was taken out of context, was if there are things we need to look at from different angles, we need to look at them from different angles.
“If your question, commissioner, is CTE one of those things, I would say absolutely not.”
The director said there are benefits from the CTE programs for all students, whether they intend to leave high school and go straight into the workforce as a career or whether they intend to go on for advance training, be it through technical training or college.
“CTE is an integral part of what we do,” Setterlund said. “Do we often times not utilize it in ways we should? I would be the first to admit that. Do we need to constantly be revamping and tweaking that program to make it better for all students, just as we do for all our other academic programs? Absolutely.”
“That’s the meat and potatoes right there,” Joines said. “With a 99.5 percent graduation rate, that’s important not only to CTE, but to graduation rates school wide.”
He then asked Setterlund to explain what he means about tweaking. “If we’re going to tweak the best program in the state, it’s very important to me that we don’t tweak the wrong way.”
Setterlund said the system doesn’t have the data they should have, such as what do those students do once they leave high school.
“Do they enter a job on a career path or are they taking a minimum wage, hourly gob that really doesn’t lead to a career,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we provide them with the internal programs that they can have and receive high school credit for and place them with employers who will put them on a career path if they’re not going to go to college.
“I don’t think that it’s the instruction that they receive that is at fault. I think it’s the guidance and the direction and the helping coordinate job placement for them when they leave us if they choose not to go on to school.”
Joines then asked about how Common Core is going the change the CTE program and the change away from block scheduling.
“Common Core doesn’t have anything to do with the length of class,” Setterlund said, explaining that Common Core is a set of standards regarding things that students should know at various grades, and that it changes the standards “to more critical thinking, problem solving, researching other than just the memorization of facts.”
Setterlund said Common Core and the shift from block scheduling are two “unrelated,” and that he would be happy to discuss privately with Joines the change in scheduling, as it would take considerable time to explain. Joines thanked him for his time.