Westosha Central senior Anna Sager, 18, talks with State Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers during his March 16 visit about her college plans to study food science (Nicholas Ravnikar/The Report).

State superintendent tours school’s consumer education wing

By Nicholas Ravnikar

When State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Evers visited Westosha Central High School on Friday, March 16, athletes and students were preparing to board the buses beside community members as the basketball team prepared to vie in the state tournament in Madison.

All the faculty and staff and most of the students who remained at the school instead of cheering on the Falcons’ basketball team from the stands were festooned with school colors in a show of spirit as they met with Evers.

“It’s an amazing day,” said school board member Dustin Beth, who accompanied Evers along with other board members on the tour. “It’s a Falcon Awesome Day!”

Beth and other school board members kept pace as Evers toured the school’s Family and Consumer Education wing, talking with teachers and students in the health sciences, culinary arts and textiles and related student clubs.

Particularly celebrated during the visit was the school’s Career Pathways programs, which features 20 courses on four different career tracks, in addition to 13 certificate programs that meet four state skill standards. Additionally, the school has partnered with Gateway Technical College to offer nine transcripted courses to its students so that they can earn college credit while they are still in high school, to get an earlier jump on advanced learning.

In the health sciences class, he spoke with a student who said her classes at Westosha Central have helped her in her current work as a dietary aid in the healthcare industry and as future in medicine. Later, in the culinary arts and food sciences classrooms, Evers talked with numerous students who were headed off to culinary arts colleges.

When he met with student representatives of HOSA, a national career and technical student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, they discussed developing wellness programming around finals week that included visits from therapy dogs and yoga mats for relaxation, as well as their First Aid and CPR experiences.

The last visit of the day for Evers was a demonstration of the Gammill long arm quilter and embroidery machine, which the school uses as part of a business operation that also serves as the basis for student learning experiences.

The visit was previously scheduled for February but then cancelled on account of the snow, according to Tom McCarthy, director of communications for the Department of Public Instruction, who also attended with Evers.

Highly praised by national organization
According to Evers and his communications director, Westosha Central’s Family and Consumer Education department, housed in its own wing of the school, came highly recommended by Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national student organization that specializes in family and consumer sciences education.

“They said, ‘You’ve got to check this place out, they are just knocking it out of the park, specifically around the Pathways work,” McCarthy said.

Westosha Central is ahead of other schools in the state, McCarthy said, in terms of the programming, resources and partnerships it has been able to pull together for students, and it has been fortunate to find an eager and willing partner in Gateway Technical College..

“Some of them (technical colleges) are not always eager to open their doors to high school kids, because it can sometimes mean a loss in funding for them to take these kids on,” McCarthy said.

While Evers acknowledged that cost could be a prohibitive factor for some schools to develop and maintain similar programming, he thinks “competing interests” are a primary obstacle as well.

“There’s such a wide variety of expectations for young people to make decisions early in their lives instead of allowing them to broaden their horizons,” Evers said. “I think it would be hard to start this at this point in time for any school district.”

DPI visits schools’ CTE facilities every February
Though the superintendent may visit as many as 200 schools in a year, putting him on the road two to three days every week, McCarthy said, February is usually reserved for touring schools’ Career and Technical Education departments.

“This is impressive, it really is,” McCarthy said. “To see and listen to these kids talk about the Pathways experience for them, it’s affirming, because you sit in an office and think about this stuff and talk to people about it. But to actually see it is a different deal.”

Evers agreed, noting that the department and its programs have been a staple of the school.

“It’s a testament to the teachers and administrators who have developed something over time that has stood the test of time. A lot of programs like this falter because of the other requirements that kids have to take, but they’ve kept the program going.”

While the courses and student clubs do prepare students for careers, Evers said, incorporating CTE into high schools serves to help Wisconsin’s youth be more well-rounded adults. Even if they’re not going to work in the specific fields around which course curriculum is built, Evers said, “It gives them an idea of how much effort it takes to have a good product, no matter what they do.”

Still, Evers noted that education ought to aim at helping to improve the whole person, not just their capacity to work in particular industries, and he was wary of prescribing career tracks for students.

“I don’t want to speak ill of Foxconn,” Evers said. “You don’t want some particular event overtaking everything that goes on for a school district. Somehow, they’ve been able to bridge that gap here (at WCHS) — which is great. Yes, we have to be prepared for Foxconn and the jobs that are going to be coming in the future, but it’s more important to me that students engage in something they love, whether it’s embroidery or whether it’s health occupations. This gives them an opportunity to grow as adults.”


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