Davies ready to expand (Valley Breeze)

By NANCY KIRSCH, Valley Breeze Contributing Writer

LINCOLN – As with many Rhode Island schools, the William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School’s less-than-optimal physical buildings and equipment don’t match the quality of its dedicated faculty and engaged students, said officials on Monday.

The need for state-of-the-art technology and equipment is especially critical at this vocational school that offers a full academic curriculum, they said.

During an hour-long visit to Davies in Lincoln on Monday, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said he’s heard about the school’s physical deficiencies from many Rhode Island business owners, including several who have hired Davies students.

“They are saying that they can see, as employers, that the school needs new machinery …” he told members of the Davies senior leadership team who met with him and two of his staff members.

Long aware of the school’s need to redesign both the size and condition of the physical facility to grow, Davies business manager Cheryl Carroll summarized how the school will use the $3.65 million it received this year from the state to develop the Center for Advanced Manufacturing.

Machine technology, bio-manufacturing, electrical and pre-engineering, four of the school’s nine programs, will receive upgraded equipment, the bio-manufacturing facilities will be expanded, and the machine technology facilities will be relocated and expanded.

“We need space, lab components and equipment to deliver that, as well as equipment upgrades so that we’re teaching what is relevant,” said Carroll. Several new members of the school’s board of trustees, including Dave Chenevert, executive director of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, said they want to ensure that the Davies curriculum remains relevant and useful.

With construction planned to start this spring and summer, Davies officials anticipate ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new facilities before the 2018-2019 school year.

If all goes well, more upgrades will follow for Davies, where the south wing was built in 1970 and north wing was built in 1990. Located at 50 Jenckes Hill Road, Davies is a state vocational school, funded by the State of Rhode Island. The nearly 250,000-square-foot building houses approximately 875 students, 665 of whom come from Pawtucket and Central Falls.

Using consultants to assess the current deficiencies in the physical facility and evaluate what it should look like for 21st century learning, Davies is developing an overall master facility plan. According to a 2016 report, Carroll said that “doing nothing new,” simply addressing the long list of deferred maintenance issues, was estimated to cost more than $15 million. She expressed hope that the master plan for revamping the school, due to be completed by April, will receive a fair hearing so that it can help Davies “be relevant, feed industry (with trained workers), and do what we do best.”

A ballot measure for a bond referendum to pay for construction will be drafted and, ideally, approved during 2019, with the referendum vote in 2020, and construction to begin in mid-2020 and continue through 2023.

Davies’ health care program, with 145 students, is its most popular program, yet it operates in a separate modular unit that, says Carroll, is “busting at the seams.” As juniors, students earn their certified nursing assistant certifications.

Monday’s tour began in the automotive laboratory. Filled with paints, spray booths, tools and other equipment, thanks to robust partnerships with various companies, it is reminiscent of a professional auto body shop. Before graduation, every Davies student must complete a 50-hour internship – generally during the summer after his or her junior year or during his or her senior year – and many automotive students are hired at the companies where they interned, says Michael Strojny, automotive instructor.

“We have more job opportunities than we have kids we can put out there,” Strojny says. With both Volvo and General Motors committed to producing only electric cars in the next several years, he acknowledged that the school’s curriculum will need to offer additional instruction in safely repairing hybrid cars.

The tour continued with brief stops in the machine shop, the bio-manufacturing lab and a health care classroom. Some of Rhode Island’s best-known companies employ students in their internships, some of which are paid, said Susan Votto, supervisor for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. In some industry sectors, companies now need this year’s juniors, but they must wait until summer to hire them for summer internships. Upon graduation, some students go right to work, while others pursue additional education, explains Victoria Gailliard-Garrick, Davies’ director and principal.

Gailliard-Garrick was quick to respond to Magaziner’s question: What are your biggest challenges over the next few years?

“It’s always funding … it’s a huge issue (affecting) hiring across the board,” she says.

Assistant Director Adam Flynn said, “The biggest opportunity is the changing statewide mindset around career and technical education. It used to be viewed as ‘lesser than’ … and realizing now that kids can get valuable jobs and earn a good living.”

That mindset, he believes, is changing, given attention from politicians, as well as national research showing the skills gap.

Engineering students create prosthetic arm for 9-year-old (Valley Breeze)

Scituate High School Academy of Engineering students are almost ready to deliver a holiday gift: a prosthetic arm for a 9-year-old boy.

Ollie Mancini, the son of Scituate 8th-grade math teacher Nicole Mancini, was born without his left forearm. Thanks to local students, he’ll have his new arm by Christmas.

R.I. high school at forefront, using technology to prepare students for careers and college (Providence Journal)

Ponaganset High School is the model for the new career and technical program hailed by Gov. Gina Raimondo in her pledge to prepare students for jobs that are both highly paid and highly skilled.

Prepare RI clearing path to career success for students (NK Standard Times)

More than 300 educators and local business leaders took time out of their weekend this past Saturday morning to participate in the first-ever Prepare RI summit, a state initiative which “closes the gap” between student learning and future, high-demand careers.

“It is not just about test scores or graduation rates,” said Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Commissioner Ken Wagner. “It is about preparing students in a way that the people who will employ our students feel that they are aligned with what they need.”

R.I. education forum tackles career readiness (Providence Journal)

“This is about doing things differently,” state education Commissioner Ken Wagner said Saturday.

Wagner was speaking to educators from across the state, as well as partners from the business community, at the education department’s Prepare Rhode Island forum, held at URI’s Providence campus on Washington Street.

Prepare Rhode Island, he said, is about “aligning what our economy needs with what families need and want for their kids.”

PrepareRI Summit Brings Together 250 Rhode Islanders to Support Career Education

More than 250 educators, industry partners, students, and community leaders came together today for the first-ever PrepareRI Summit, a daylong strategy session on career education in Rhode Island. Hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), the Summit featured opening remarks from Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner and, by video, Governor Gina Raimondo, who has made job training and career education a top priority in her administration.

Superintendent Judy Paolucci: It's Not Your Father's Voc-Tech Program

I attended high school in the 80’s, when students had a choice – college prep or vocational education.  Both programs remained parallel and separate through the early 21st Century and both initially served students fairly well but not perfectly.  Vocational programs didn’t keep up with job market demands and college prep programs left many with high debts and few work options.

Today’s job market is very different both because skills traditionally associated with college prep are necessary for jobs that had previously been considered “vocational” (consider the technology in today’s heating and cooling systems) and because tomorrow’s workers are expected to change positions and roles far more frequently than in the past.  Since the mission of K-12 education includes preparing students for life after high school, it has become necessary to rethink the experiences students have in school.

My Turn: Ken Wagner: Recharging R.I. students’ interest in school (Providence Journal)

Picture this: A family sits down to dinner, is on route to soccer practice or getting ready for bed. The inevitable question is posed: “What did you learn at school today?” It’s a scene that’s played out on television and in our own families for decades.

The answer matters. It matters whether or not a student is excited to learn.