By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback presented $51,000 to three Southeast Kansas school districts Thursday morning in Pittsburg in recognition of their achievements in preparing students for the work force through technical education programs.
The presentation was held at the Fort Scott Community College building trades campus in the Pittsburg Industrial Park, and was attended by local and state elected officials, Chamber of Commerce members, school personnel and a number of students who earned industry certifications before graduating from high school.
Baxter Springs School District administrators accepted a ceremonial check representing $11,000 for having 11 students earn certification in construction trades; Pittsburg School District administrators accepted $19,000 for 19 student-earned certifications in masonry, construction and certified nursing assistant; and Chanute School District administrators accepted $21,000 for 21 student-earned certifications in several technical education areas.
Legislators approved the statewide program as part of a career readiness program. The goal, said both Brownback and Fort Scott Community College President Clayton Tatro during the presentation, strives to prepare high school graduates with skills necessary to immediately enter the work force if they so choose, and to better prepare them for eventually pursuing higher education in related fields.
“This is cool,” Tatro said. “This is goose-bumps cool. To have this number of people gathered and celebrating and championing technical education, technical education skills and students. It’s amazing. Getting students into a pathway before they even graduate from high school is exactly what this country needs for a full-growth economy.
“The reality is, tech education is our future. It truly is. At the end of the day, it’s all about a J-O-B. It’s about putting people into the work force.”
Although Chanute received the largest check in Southeast Kansas, Baxter Springs Superintendent Dennis Burke said Baxter Springs School District feels like the biggest winner.
“We have 290 students in our high school, so for us to have 11 completers is big,” Burke said. “We are in the top 20 percent of any school in Kansas. We feel pretty good about that.”
Baxter Springs has had the technical education program in construction trades in place for 11 years, Burke said, but this is the first year for districts to receive money from the state for student completion.
“For us, the tie-in to Crossland Construction is huge,” he said. “They will take those students who graduate with this and give them training to be job superintendents. Their potential for jobs and a good salary is tremendous. Next year, we’ll add welding and CNA to our program.”
Pittsburg Superintendent Destry Brown said his district, too, plans to expand next year.
“We started four years ago, but this is the first year we worked toward building momentum,” he said. “Next year, we’re hoping to double the amount of completers, because we have a lot of juniors coming in, and we added welding this spring and plan to add EMT this next school year.”
Todd Keller, a May graduate of Pittsburg High school, earned certification in masonry through FSCC in his junior and senior year of high school. He said he now has a job lined up in Texas.
Taylor Hawkins, who became a certified nursing assistant during her junior and senior year at Pittsburg High School, said doing so allowed her to apply for nursing school during her first year in college.
“My hope is this program continues to expand,” Brownback said. “I have no doubt the Legislature will continue to fund it.”
Thursday afternoon, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback presented checks totaling $130,000 to schools in Wichita and Hutchinson, which had high school students who earned industry certifications before graduation.