Clinton, Cleveland CTE Programs Celebrate New, Improved Spaces
Parents tour CPSD’s new CTE facilities during December’s open house event.
Officials cut a ceremonial red ribbon during the CHS open house event in December. Pictured from left to right are architect Gary Bailey, Derek Holmes, Matt Thomas, Paula DeYoung, Bernard Kines, Felicia Gavin, Clinton Public School District (CPSD) Superintendent Tim Martin, Brett Robinson, CPSD CTE Director Bill Hardin and Brad and Jamie Fountain of Fountain Construction.
Danielle Woodruff, a sophomore Culinary Arts I student at Clinton High School (CHS), serves refreshments to attendees at December’s open house event dedicating CHS’s new career and technical education (CTE) space.
Carl Woods, a junior at CSD, works on a lawn mower at the CCDTC.
CSD senior Marcus Idleburg services an engine at the Cleveland Career Development and Technology Center (CCDTC).
Cleveland School District senior Kashum Williams (left) stains and reupholsters a chair as part of a dining room makeover project as construction instructor Nathan Richardson inspects his work.
If your surroundings influence how you think and feel, then career and technical education (CTE) teachers in Clinton and Cleveland should be in a good mood after recent construction and renovation projects at the two city school districts.
Clinton Public School District (CPSD) officials gathered this winter to dedicate new additions to Clinton High School that provide a needed spatial expansion to programs, while Cleveland School District educators say they’re enjoying the fruits of their labor — and donations from the community — after a multi-year effort to spruce up the CTE shop.
“It’s always a great thing when communities come together to support CTE,” said Dr. Aimee Brown, the Mississippi Department of Education’s CTE leader. “My hat goes off to the Clinton community members who supported construction of new CTE facilities and to businesses and residents of Cleveland who provided supplies and donations to their local facility. Improvements ensure these facilities will be up to par for students in the future.”
Clinton’s New ‘Bookends’
Proximity was one of the key factors behind CPSD expanding its high school’s CTE space.
In the past, career-technical programs were housed at another building adjacent to the old high school. There, students would simply walk across the street to the old vo-tech, said CTE Director Bill Hardin. After a new high school was constructed in 1996, district officials began having a conversation about reuniting CTE programs with the new facility.
“About 12 years ago, leadership began hearing about career academies. They visited other high schools and began thinking about the value of having career-technical programs in closer proximity with academic programs, that way they could collaborate with each other and strengthen both. The idea became we’d move CTE programs to the high school so we could do that,” he said.
Those conversations turned into support and action, as the school board approved a $15 million project that constructed two additions — one on each side of the facility — that gives the high school approximately 59,000 square feet of CTE space on two floors. The project represents a 70% expansion of CTE-dedicated learning space from the district's previous mark, Hardin said.
“Used to, I could walk into every classroom in about three minutes in the old building. Now? It takes me a little longer,” he joked. “We like to say we’re the bookends with academics in the middle. We’re the ones holding it together.”
CTE programs moved into their respective spaces before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. On the west end of the building, information technology, engineering, automotive and carpentry classes share the first floor, while Teacher Academy, health science and law and public safety classes are located on the second floor. The east side is reserved for communications-, arts- and business-related pathways, including digital media, broadcast journalism, work-based learning and culinary arts.
Hardin said approximately 435 students were enrolled in CTE classes this year, which is an increase of 60 students from the previous year and former facilities.
“Our outlook involves a two-prong approach: grow the programs we have now and look to expand in the future,” he said. “There’s a little room to expand now, and we’re not going to let up on doing that. Being here will help with growing our programs.
“The community’s reaction has been so favorable,” Hardin added. “Everybody knows the value of CTE. We’re doing what we can to prepare tomorrow’s workforce.”
Cleveland Piecemeals Improvements
Renovation projects at the Cleveland Development and Technology Center became an all-hands-on-deck affair for Nathan Richardson and his community.
In the last few years, district employees improved portions of the center’s spaces — specifically those for automotive, welding and construction classes. Projects included everything from simple acts of touching up walls with paint to bringing the shop up to standard for Automotive Service Excellence certification, and many supplies to accomplish these upgrades, which also included supplying students with new tools, were donated to the center by local businesses.
Richardson, a CTE instructor of 20 years with a 30-year history of driving school buses, involved his students with many of the projects that breathed new life into the facility.
“It took almost all of [the previous academic year] — from the beginning of the school year all the way to right before coronavirus hit — to get the shop cleaned up and ready so they could paint. The building was built back in the 1970s — that’s decades of grit and sawdust. Teachers and instructors always left little pieces of themselves behind,” he said. “I had the kids involved in cleaning and getting the place ready. That gave them a sense of pride. They can look back and say, ‘I helped do that.’”
Both Richardson and automotive technology instructor George White said putting new tools in students’ hands will immediately improve learning.
“A lot of people don’t understand the commitment when you talk about upgrading. It takes a lot to upgrade our shops,” Richardson said. “My average class is about 15 kids, but sometimes I even have 20 kids in a class. With three classes a day, that’s a lot of wear and tear on tools and batteries.”
“Fixing things up and getting new tools gets kids in the right mindset and gives them a vision of what they’ll see if they go into real-world automotive service settings,” White added. “We’re giving them more hands-on experiences with these new, updated tools. Once they leave, they’ll know how to use modern equipment.”
Both instructors said they were thankful for the community stepping up and providing the center with the much-needed supplies and donations that made the renovations and improvements possible.