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Postponed: BoE plan for College & Career Academy

The Fayette College and Career Academy movement will be postponed for a year at the request of the Fayette County Board of Education as the board handles the massive effort of closing a handful of schools, implementation of a detailed redistricting process and enacts steep budget cuts to shave $15 million in expenses for the coming 2013-2014 school year.

The slowdown will not halt the pursuit of a $3 million state grant for the local CCA, as officials with the Georgia Department of Education have told CCA organizers they don’t need to halt that process even though the CCA talks with the board of education are on hold for next year, said Kim Learnard, who is spearheading a group of volunteers pursuing the CCA.

The board of education plays a key role in authorizing the CCA as the board has to approve the CCA charter because CCA operates as a public school. By postponing that decision later down the road, the CCA will be looking at a potential opening in the fall of 2014 instead of this coming fall.

The goal for the CCA is to establish a location chartered by the local school system in which high school students can take college classes as well as detailed technical classes that would give them a leg up in applying for jobs at local industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare and hospitality.

Other potential career paths on the technical side could include aviation electronics, welding, machining, law enforcement, engineering, cosmetology, culinary arts, broadcasting and more.

Local industries have been the driving force behind the CCA movement thus far because they are experiencing a labor shortage in a variety of fields, and the need for labor is critical, officials have said.

The CCA got a significant commitment earlier this month from the NAECO company in Peachtree City which is pledging to equip a manufacturing lab for the Fayette CCA with a donation of cash and in-kind materials of $10,000. The donation was announced by NAECO founder David Bergmann at the January meeting of the CCA steering committee.

“We want to feed equipment and resources into it,” Bergmann said, noting that the equipment will provide students with the same machines his company uses, giving them necessary skills and training. “... If we can, we’ll go beyond $10,000 and I hope and I challenge the other areas businesses to match this and let’s start to see some big numbers.”

Learnard said two other local companies have said they would like to make similar equipment donations this year, and she is hoping for even more interest. Also the office of Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has provided a $2,500 mini-grant with the Georgia College and Career Academy network, which will provide webinars to CCA staffers, Learnard said.

The Georgia DoE also has awarded CCA a $5,000 planning grant as well.

Consultant Russ Moore told the steering committee recently that he believes the CCA by combining vocational and technical classes under one roof will save the school system money, though the main goal is to improve student performance and the local economy.

At the same time, the delay will also help the school system as the Department of Education will conduct an analysis of the various high school programs to help “identify the gaps,” Learnard said.

The CCA effort is nearing the completion of its needs assessment survey, which involves getting a wealth of detailed information from local employers to help determine what their hiring needs are. Those results will be used to tailor the CCA’s education efforts.

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