Instructor sees challenges for CTE programs

Your parents’ vocational classes at Churchill County High School barely resemble what was offered one, two or even three generations ago.

Although the name has been changed to Career and Technical Education, some of the courses from your parents’ days have remained with a few tweaks, while others have been added because of the ever-changing technology needed in today’s world.

Richards Evans, a longtime Churchill County High School educator in the vocational program, now coordinates the CTE instruction with a handful of instructors at CCHS. The local CTE curriculum, however, is not keeping pace with society’s demands. Not only has CTE changed the landscape of instruction but also the number of class offerings and students has declined.

“We have some challenges,” Evans said in addressing trustees at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Evans then recited the reduced number of classes — many of them cut in half — that had been offered at the high school. For example, he said Ag Mechanics has dropped from six to four classes; drafting has gone from six to three classes; woodshop now has three classes; and photo offers one section.

“We are not offering or filling as many classes, and that is the challenge,” Evans stressed to the board.” I would like to see us get back.”

Incoming ninth-grade students and their parents will have an opportunity to see all the classes the high school offers on Thursday and ask questions about the CTE program. The two-hour orientation begins at 6 p.m.

Although Evans cited fewer numbers of classes, he said another challenge focuses on qualified instructors. He said the additional challenge besides the number of class offerings centers on both the number of new and substitute instructors. He said a substitute teacher in one program has very little background in the subject, while the drafting instructor is a veteran teacher but does not have experience in the subject. Evans also said the culinary arts teacher will retire at the end of the semester, thus creating another vacancy.

Evans also sees declining parental interest for their sons and daughters to enroll in CTE courses. Student enrollment has also played a big part in the changing dynamics of CTE instruction.

“During the last seven years we have lost 300 students at the high school,” said Principal Kevin Lords.

Furthermore, he said the state has raised requirements for graduation among the core classes, and there appears to be a general apathy among students.

“Students don’t know of the jobs out there and what they pay,” said trustee Ron Evans, a retired vocational arts teacher. “You can make a very good wage as an electrician. Plumbers … many of them are retiring.”

Evans said the key to resurrecting the CTE program is to have counselors help students make good choices, which includes information on CTE classes. He said a possibility is to offer CTE classes at Western Nevada College similar to the joint effort with the Jump Start program. WNC offers college-level classes to CCHS students for dual credit. Because the State of Nevada has poured additional money into the high school CTE program, Evans said the state has raised the bar high.

“Teachers in CTE are feeling pressure to perform,” Evans added.

Dr. Sandra Sheldon, CCSD superintendent, said the state approves classes and the sequences of courses.

“We have the option of what kind of courses we want to offer at the high school,” she said. “We need to generate interest for our students to take these courses.”

Sheldon agreed with Evans, saying WNC offers a great opportunity for students to take courses and in their senior year to receive certification.

Sheldon said she recently met with the CTE Advisory Council with the goal of informing more students about the programs.


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