The Kodiak Island Borough School District Board of Education highlighted the growing career and technical education program at the Kodiak High School during the board’s work session Monday.

New courses at the high school this year include Early Childhood Education, Certified Nursing Assistant, Business Entrepreneurship, Introduction to Computer Coding, and Information Technology.

The district now has a CTE facilitator, Mike Finley, who assumed the role in addition to his teaching responsibilities. Finley teaches Introduction to Engineering and has been employed by the district for six years. 

“I’ve been a CTE teacher for 20 years, and I’ve watched what CTE has done for me and what it’s done for students. Everywhere I taught there were kids who weren’t successful and came into CTE, found success, and have gone on to do wonderful things,” Finley said. 

“There’s a lot of myths about CTE, that they’re only for non-college-bound students, and that’s simply not true,” he said. “CTE provides a seamless pathway into post-secondary education training pursuits. 

“We have a lot of students that are going to college that are taking CTE classes,” he said. “CTE empowers students to explore multiple career options… It’s a great way to solidify your academic skills.”

Nationally, CTE students have a higher graduation rate, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 93%, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80%.

Of high school graduates who earned two to three CTE credits, 91% enrolled in college.

“Sometimes at-risk students find something that keeps them in school,” Finley said. “Sometimes it’s that one class where they find success.”

According to Superintendent Larry LeDoux, students used to be placed in tracks, meaning that CTE classes were not intended for college-bound students. The district does not track students today. 

“But there is a type of mental tracking that goes on, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to change,” LeDoux said, explaining that some students still view CTE classes as incompatible with college aspirations.

Finley added that the district needs to do a better job communicating the value of CTE classes to students and parents. 

“There’s a large demand in industry for welding, auto and construction. That’s why it’s a good thing we offer them,” Finley said. “We have to think about our community that we serve, but also, we have to think globally. Not all students will stay in Kodiak to find jobs, and they have to be prepared for wherever they go.”

Kodiak High School Vice Principal Neil Hecht provided enrollment figures for current CTE offerings at the high school. There are around 500 individual enrollments in courses such as welding, 3D modeling and design, and maritime science and technology. 46 of students taking CTE classes are taking dual enrollment courses with the college in welding, architecture and drafting, and multimedia. 

Hecht said the number of dual enrollments could be higher if the enrollment process was streamlined. Students have less than two weeks to enroll in college courses and must enroll in person at the college with a parent present.

“I used to have a lot more students sign up and I don’t have as many this year,” Hecht said.

In Kodiak Middle School, 116 students are enrolled in Industrial Arts, accounting for one quarter of the student body. According to LeDoux, the future of the high school CTE program depends on the success of the middle school CTE classes.

LeDoux said the district is rebuilding the CTE program. The district hopes to build partnerships with local business owners to offer CTE students internships in their respective fields. 

“A lot of people would be surprised to know that we have a K-12 career education curriculum,” LeDoux said. “Most people don’t even know we have one. So we’re working backwards.”

A new CTE advisory committee will meet Oct. 28 and will focus on developing a CTE program five-year plan and formulating a budget proposal for the upcoming years.

LeDoux said that despite budget constraints, Gov. Mike Dunleavy supports CTE programs. 

“It’s probably one of their number one priorities,” he said. “We have an incredibly politically supportive environment to be creative in, and Kodiak has always been creative.”

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