Call to Order and Roll Call
Thefourth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 12, 2011, at 10:00 AM, at the Elkhorn Crossing School in Scott County. Senator Ken Winters, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Ken Winters, Co-Chair; Representative Carl Rollins II, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Jared Carpenter, Denise Harper Angel, Jimmy Higdon, Alice Forgy Kerr, Vernie McGaha, R.J. Palmer II, Johnny Ray Turner, and Mike Wilson; Representatives John "Bam" Carney, Hubert Collins, Leslie Combs, Jim DeCesare, Ted Edmonds, C. B. Embry Jr., Derrick Graham, Donna Mayfield, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Ryan Quarles, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, Ben Waide, Addia Wuchner, and Jill York.
Guests: Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators; Karen Dodd, Kentucky Department of Education; Jim Thompson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Robyn Oatley, Prichard Committee; and Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools.
Approval of Minutes
Upon motion by Representative Carney, seconded by Representative DeCesare, the minutes of the August 1, 2011, meeting was approved by voice vote.
Overview of Scott County Schools
Senator Winters said the Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky made several recommendations relating to career and technical education, which will be discussed at the November education committee meeting. As a member of the task force, he became aware of the innovative, successful program being offered at Elkhorn Crossing School.
Representative Quarles welcomed the members to his home district. He said that Superintendent Patricia Putty assumed her position upon retirement of long time superintendent Dallas Blankenship and that she continues to progressively lead Scott County Schools, as evidenced by the successful Elkhorn Crossing School and an increase in ACT scores throughout the district. He said Scott County is the second fastest growing county in the state with a population increase of 40 percent in the past ten years.
Superintendent Putty provided the following information. Scott County has 1,139 employees and 8,432 students. The district is comprised of seven elementary schools, three middle schools, a ninth grade school, a grade 9-12 intervention school, Elkhorn Crossing School, and Scott County High School. The district sets aside collaborative days in its calendar so all of the district’s teachers can meet to discuss curriculum, instruction, and student learning. The Scott County Board of Education’s vision for Elkhorn Crossing School, which opened in August 2010, was to create a collaborative culture to ensure student learning. Instruction and curriculum is research-based, and the most up-to-date methodology and technology is used to provide career and technical education. Elkhorn Crossing School is comprised of six separate learning villages with each village offering a technical education course and two core content courses. She said Scott County values the core content areas of reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, but equally important are arts and humanities, foreign languages, and career and technical education. She stressed the importance of funding so districts can continue to provide elective courses as a means to increase rigor, graduation rates, and ACT scores.
Superintendent Putty said the need for career and technical education also increases as the number of free and reduced price students increase. She said Elkhorn Crossing School is locally operated, but state funding is critical in ensuring the continuing success of the program and that all technical programs are under one umbrella.
Tour of Elkhorn Crossing School
Members of the committee, LRC staff, and guests toured the facility with student ambassadors serving as guides. Upon conclusion of the tours, Senator Winters expressed appreciation on behalf of the committee members to the student guides for providing the informative tours of their school.
School Philosophy, Organization, and Instructional Programs
Francis O’Hara, Ed. D, Director of Career Education and Principal of Elkhorn Crossing School (ECS), provided the following information. The ECS philosophy is that small, personalized learning villages make a better school. The “village” concept consists of three highly skilled teachers collaborating to intersect their respective disciplines to provide seamless instruction. ECS focuses on rigor, relevance, and relationships. The district offers initial exposure to career and technical education through an ECS Gateway Academy summer camp for elementary school students. Seven slots are allotted to each of the elementary schools and students must complete an application to attend the academy. During the past five years, 250 students have graduated from the summer camp. These students are given priority consideration if they elect to attend ECS in the tenth grade. All middle school students are required to take a Gateway to Technology program and may choose from various disciplines, including design and modeling; automation and robotics; energy and the environment; flight and space; science of technology; and magic of electrons. Feeder introductory courses in engineering design, principles of biomedical sciences, media arts, and health sciences are offered at the Scott County Ninth Grade School and 60 percent of the students take a career course.
The ECS village structure for sophomores and juniors include engineering, biomedical sciences, media arts, health sciences, and Bluegrass Community and Technical College early college courses. A sixth village in culinary arts will be added in Fall 2012. Each village has three teachers with one teaching the elective course and the other two teaching a core content required subject, such as English, math or science. For example, tenth grade students in the engineering village may take the principles of engineering, English II, and Geometry, or they may take principles of engineering, Honors English II, and Honors Algebra II. Eleventh grade students in the engineering village may take digital electronics, English III, and Geometry, or they may take digital electronics, AP Language III, and Honors Pre-Calculus. ECS also offers elective early morning and evening lab classes for seniors that include engineering design and development, biomedical innovations, media arts, AP Language III, AP Physics, and college readiness classes in English 101 or 102 and Communications 181.
ECS enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year was 1,007 students, of which 384 were off campus freshman and the remainder a combination of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Each ECS village has curriculum integration, teacher collaboration, and intersecting of seven areas of the ECS report card. The seven areas include mastery of course content; work ethic/effort reflected by student commitment to complete assignments and attend classes; collaboration in group work; critical thinking reflected by ability to analyze and synthesize information; writing mechanics; progress on completion of projects/proposals with accompanying research; and the effectiveness of presentation skills to audiences. ECS students have received numerous awards for various projects and activities and score high on college entrance examinations and advanced placement classes. Dr. O’Hara said that the ECS delivery of instruction should serve as the model for all career and technical education in Kentucky.
Doug Klein, instructor for the engineering village, said that working as a team with the math and English teacher in the village concept is very different than the traditional high school “silo” atmosphere. Students in the engineering village develop projects from civil, mechanical, environmental, biotechnical, electrical, materials, industrial, naval, and aeronautical engineering fields. Each student selects and completes a project in one of the engineering fields and completes two core content required subjects. Ninety-seven percent of students in the engineering village have passed all three courses.
Julye Adams, instructor for the biomedical sciences village, said Scott County Schools has realized that the massive shortage of health care workers provides a viable career avenue for students. Both the biomedical sciences village and health sciences village provide training and instruction related to the health care industry. The biomedical sciences career pathway uses problem-based learning curricula provided by Project Lead the Way and offers a series of courses that begin in the freshman year and can be completed in the senior year. The team of teachers helps students apply learned skills in real world settings including laboratory experiments. The village has an advisory committee that includes professionals and community leaders who mentor the students. Students elect to come to ECS even though rules are stricter than traditional high schools. Rules include completion of six hours of community service each semester and a dress code. The biomedical sciences village implemented a “white coat ceremony” that is being used as a model nationwide in which students take an ethical oath to maintain high moral standards and an impeccable reputation as they pursue a career in the medical field.
In response to a question from Representative Waide about continuity of the program, Dr. O’Hara said the success of students who have participated in the ECS career and technical education program will attract exemplary leaders and teachers. Senator Winters said that the enthusiasm and excitement displayed by ECS staff and students results in success.
In response to a question from Representative Graham, Dr. O’Hara responded that students who apply are selected for the elementary school Gateway to Technology summer academy based on criteria established by each of the seven elementary schools in the district with seven slots being allotted to each school. The same process is used in the middle schools, but only 72 students are selected in order to maintain a 24-1 student-teacher ratio. There are four sophomore classes and two junior classes at ECS.
In response to a question from Representative Palumbo, Dr. O’Hara said instructional staff is comprised of certified teachers or professionals holding degrees in the fields they teach. All instructors hold bachelor degrees or above, and overall, ECS has the highest-qualified career and technical education instructors in the state.
In response to a question from Senator Winters, Dr. O’Hara said there have not been enough Scott County students to express an interest in plumbing and other construction-related areas to start classes for those fields. He said automotive technology and welding are still popular choices for career and technical education, but operating costs always a factor when providing technical education. Scott County students do not pay any fees associated with technical education.
In response to a question from Senator Kerr regarding funding to build the school, Dr. O’Hara said Scott County bonding capacity of approximately 14 million for two years was used to prepare the site and construct the facility. Also, Nextel contracted with Scott County to rent air space providing an initial payment of $600,000 and $3,000 to $5,000 per month; Toyota donated $50,000; the non-profit Center for Quality People and Organizations donated $100,000; some General Fund money was used; and various grants have been obtained. Superintendent Putty said that $839,000 of General Fund money has been allocated to the technology center.
Senator Winters thanked all the presenters and students for their informative presentations and tour of the facility. He said there are a total of 98 career and technical education schools in Kentucky, and the legislature will be instrumental in ensuring their success. Input from Scott County may be sought as legislation is developed regarding career and technical education.
Senator Winters announced that the next meeting will be in Montgomery County.
There being no further business to discuss, the meeting adjourned at 12:45 PM.