SD 227 to offer career track for students
By Sarah Zylstra Correspondent April 21, 2013 11:41PM
Cydney Richardson, who is into science and math and wants to go into biomedical engineering, poses at Rich South High School in Richton Park, IL, on Tuesday, March 19, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 23, 2013 6:11AM
In 2014, each Rich Township District 227 high school will offer a specific career track curriculum for upperclassmen.
Rich South will offer classes in arts, communication and finance; Rich Central in health and lab science courses; and Rich East in information technology and manufacturing.
Students will attend their local school during their freshman and sophomore years. As juniors, they will declare a career interest and take morning classes at the applicable school before moving back for afternoon classes at their home campus.
“This would infuse academic rigor into elective courses, which oftentimes our young people gravitate toward,” Assistant Supt. Jennifer Norrell said at last week’s school board meting. “It would also give them a purpose and an increased level of engagement.”
Teachers will begin this summer to write curricula that presents academic subjects in the context of careers, she said.
“What about physics does a machinist need to know?” Norrell said. “I’m going to be more into passing physics if I know that everything in physics is about what I want to do. I’m going to pay attention to chemistry if I know I want to be a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in a year and a half.”
She said District 227 staff will use daily resource time to help sophomore students identify their areas of interest. They will be told about a variety of career options and given surveys to help them narrow their choices to two, Norrell said, and then will spend time in real-life simulations of those two occupations to help them make a choice.
For a student interested in nursing, for example, one quarter of the school year would be spent doing what medical personnel do.
“You might have lab simulations of what you do in a bio science lab,” Norrell said. “There’s another for phlebotomy, to replicate what it’s like to draw blood. Another in prosthetics lets you simulate putting a cast on.”
By junior year, every student should be on a career or technical track, she said. By graduation, many of them should have certifications in areas such as nursing, computers, manufacturing or sanitation, Norrell said.
“How would it change the behavior of our juniors and seniors in their seriousness toward school if they knew they could graduate prepared to go to college but (also) hold a job immediately at a local hospital or a hospital wherever they’re in school and have the hospital pay for college?” she said.
District 227 is applying for $18 million in grant money to get its schools outfitted for this change, but even if the grant doesn’t come through, the district will move in this direction as much as it’s able, according to Norrell.
“We’re going to go for it,” school board member Cheryl Coleman said. “It’s the will of the community. They’re thirsty for change.”
Board member Alyssa Hernandez was more cautious, asking about plans for transfer students and the insecurity of state funding.
“These are major, major plans,” she said. “I just want to make sure we don’t get halfway through implementation only to turn around and the funding isn’t there.”
Hernandez, who did not run for re-election April 9 and is leaving the board, also advised members to seek community support for the proposal.
“Please make sure there is buy-in from our community, from all different parts of our community, all types of different stakeholders and also our internal community between staff and teachers,” she said.