Durham school leaders get career tech ed update

Growth ongoing for training curriculum
Mar. 04, 2013 @ 07:50 PM

Rick Sheldahl proudly informed Durham Public Schools Board of Education members Monday that students in the Career and Technical Education programs that he directs enjoy an 89.4 percent graduation rate.

“That's a great testimony to the power of CTE,” said Heidi Carter, the board's chair.

That was just some of the good news Sheldahl shared with the board about CTE, which is funded with state and federal dollars rather than local district funds.

Among other things he reported about CTE during Monday's instructional services committee meeting:

-- The National Academy of Finance is getting a reboot at Hillside High.

-- The culinary arts program at Northern High got an extra teacher.

-- Biomedical science curriculum is coming to Southern School of Energy and Sustainability.

-- City of Medicine Academy is getting a program for online pharmacy technicians.

-- Lego MindStorm curriculum is coming for middle schools.

Next school year, Sheldahl said, CTE may branch out to include automation and robotics, a pastry concentration in the culinary program at Northern, computer science and a “virtual enterprise” program inspired by a similar effort in Granville County.

Farther down the line, he said, CTE could explore aviation and aerospace programs, a solar array at Southern to supplement a renewable energy track and online learning opportunities.

“It is absolutely critical that our students are prepared, not just to graduate high school, but to lead the United States in global competition,” Sheldahl said.

Board members also heard an update from Sheldahl about a project that has proven a driving passion for him – the DPS hub farm behind Eno Valley Elementary School.

Since the vine-cutting celebration in October 2012, the farm has drawn students from Northern High, Carrington Middle and Eno Valley. The farm also got support from, among others, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, Trip for Kids Triangle, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the City of Durham and the University of North Carolina.

By 2016, Sheldahl and another guiding force behind it, landscape architect Katherine Gill, said the farm should have a learning lab, kitchen, farmers market, production field and year-round educational programming.

To get there, they'll need to raise funds. Sheldahl is submitting a $50,000 line item for DPS funding this year, but acknowledged that might be overly ambitious. He also has a partner in Doughman.org, the May 25 nationally known culinary tour of Durham, which will contribute proceeds from that event to the farm.

No strings attached, said Doughman organizer Emily Egge on Monday.

“We want to do whatever we can to make sure this funding is available to fill those cracks that grant funding doesn't completely fill,” she said.

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