Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS) held a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to discuss the implementation of an academy model aimed at setting students on successful career pathways.
“The initial rollout of the academies did not go as smoothly as we would have liked it to have been,” CMS Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburn said in an interview with the Current-Argus.
The new program divides the school into four academies that focus on different career paths depending on students’ interests.
The four academies are: The Academy of Business and Information Technology; The Academy of Arts, A/V Technology and Communication; The Academy of Health and Human Services; The Academy of STEM and Industrial Sciences.
The model, which was implemented this year, saw setbacks because of school closures, interruptions in training and staffing vacancies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district partnered with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to implement the academy model.
The SREB’s Senior Leadership Coach on School Improvement Chuck Boy said the organization is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that aims to improve educational outcomes in 48 states.
Studies show that academy programs improved performance in state assessments, increased on-time graduations, reduced the number of high school dropouts and improved attendance rates, according to the SEB’s presentation.
Non-native English speakers and students experiencing poverty also experienced greater benefits from participating in a career academy.
SREB recommended the district create a district-level position for career technical education and the academies, collaborate with the New Mexico State University Carlsbad to provide students with a transition from high school to college and conducting an annual review of its programs.
Attendees at the meeting expressed concern about how teacher shortages will impact the implementation of the academies and asked about the role local industries will have.
Under the program, each academy has its own set of teachers.
Carlsbad High School Principal Jessie Fuentes said some students had been temporarily removed from the academy program and moved to regular classes because of the lack of teachers.
“We’re trying to fill positions as quickly as we can but at the same time, we have people leaving just as quickly. Every time it seems we take a step forward, we have someone putting in their resignation,” Fuentes said
Fuentes said the high school surveyed teachers to match them with the academy that fits their experience but struggled to find people willing to take leadership positions. He said many teachers were ready to dig into the new model but after the delays administrators are pushing to rebuild momentum.
“We’re going to have a lot of teacher training as we move forward, a lot of project-based learning so that we can get some thematic units developed,” Fuentes said.
Local industries such as oil, gas, nuclear and potash will be an important part of the academy program, Fuentes said.
“We really want to build relationships, we want them to be able to tell us ‘this is what we need from your kids as they move forward and begin to come into our profession,'” he said.
Under the new model, students will be able to participate in co-op and internship programs for subjects like culinary arts, agriculture and computer science — which allow students to work while gaining school credit.
Fuentes said he also wants to work with partners in the energy industry including renewables like wind and solar.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected], by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.