This is a thread I've been meaning to write for some time. It is an issue I don't even claim to know a lot about but that I have heard about from many parents. I'm not even clear (even though it did get some discussion at the last Board meeting) what direction the district is taking overall. The district does have a pretty good webpage, Career and Technical Education. They are creating a Skill Center but I'm not sure how it's part of an overall vision for CTE. So I will make it a goal to try to get a better overall picture of this area of the district because folks, not everyone is going to college. There are skill sets that all students can use (like everyday life skills and family/child skills). The newer CTE courses go way beyond those skills to construction management, green industries, etc. These issues are why CTE is still relevant and viable in today's schools.
So the particular CTE I want to speak about is the Maria Montessori Language and Cultural Center that operates out of Ballard High School.
(Public disclosure; Gail Longo, who created the Center, is a long-time Montessori teacher. She taught both my children and gave them educational gifts that I could never repay her for. She is a loving and gifted teacher with vision. So, yes, I do admit bias towards this program but read on.)
From a report about the Center:
"For the past 3 years, the Maria Montessori Language & Cultural Center (MMLCC) has received state recognition as a the center of a multi-facdeted community, high school, literacy, early learning and family partnership project. Located on the Ballard High School campus, it is a 501C3 non-profit organization licensed by the WA State Department of Early Learning serving twenty children ages 3-5 and their families. In addition to its function as a Lab school for the BHS course in Human/Child Development, the MMLCC provides an after-school program in Mandarin Chinese language for children aged 5-9. "
The space used by the Center was created at Ballard as a child care facility so the space was already there (although the Center has made improvements at its own expense). The Center is part of the SPS Community Alignment Initiative (CAI). This program has been supported by Ballard staff and district staff but now is in danger because of space issues at Ballard (which Gail has been told is about Special Ed; how Special Ed could use a space designed as a child care facility is unclear).
Gail and I sat down and she walked me through the program for the Ballard students. She said many of them came in thinking it was an easy class and they would just play with little kids. They didn't know Gail. She had developed a specific curriculum about child development, interacting with young children, human growth/brain development, creating porfolios and working towards college credit for work done.
Gail is not paid by the district and developed the curriculum herself working with Ballard staff. The Center has done integrated projects with the French department, Special Needs and Markeing classes. As you can see by her blurb above, the facility is used after school as well for a language program for older children. So you have multi-aged students using this facility. To me, it's truly a community program and it seems like a direction the district would like to go in to create "community" schools.
Gail's special interest is non-violent communication and she received grants from King County and the Seattle Foundation to further that work at the Center.
And now it may all go away. That's a lot of good work across many ages to leave SPS. And, it's one of the few integrated programs in all of the high schools.
As I said, I have a special reason to advocate for this program. But it points to the larger picture of CTE's importance. From the Executive Summary of the Skill Center report:
"It is also the intent of Seattle Public Schools to expand and improve existing CTE programs in both middle and high school."
What is frustrating is that the district starts down a road and then changes direction without notice. Why open the MMLCC only to shut it down a few years later? Was it just a placeholder? Now the focus is on the new Skills Center (which I endorse) but does that mean all other CTE is left behind?
I'll end with a quote:
"I commend Ballard High School, MMLCC and all the Montessori teachers and supporters...for their commitment to developmentally-appropriate instruction. Your outstanding efforts lay the foundation for a student's success in work and in life, and I can't thank you enough for all that you do."
Christine O. Gregoire, Governor
(If you want to put in a plug for the program or communicate about CTE to someone at the district, the contacts are Courtney Cameron in the CAO's office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Shep Siegel, head of CTE, (email@example.com).