Busting myths about CCA

Kim Learnard's picture

The concept of a public school system partnering with local industries is still new to many of us. The very idea of changing the 100-year-old institution of public education is sure to evolve slowly.

But the Fayette community continues our learning process to better understand what a college and career academy (CCA) could provide Fayette students and the community.

Presenting ... “myth-busters.” Let’s clear up some of the misunderstandings about a CCA.

Myth #1 — A college and career academy involves building another high school.

While several school systems across the state have partnered with colleges, industries, and the community to fund and build a new facility, others have moved into a shuttered school building or otherwise repurposed an existing building. Fayette County has no delusions about building another high school. It is not in the plans.

Myth #2 — The college and career academy program comes from an outside source.

A CCA is not a program you can buy. The educational programs are designed and developed by Fayette County School system personnel, with input from local industry professionals and college administrators. The Fayette County School Board maintains full, local control.

Myth #3 — We already do this.

Existing programs that are working well, such as our incredible AP programs, stay right where they are. New programs would be located in a central location so they could be made available to students from all five high schools.

We could offer aviation, for example, or support the Pinewood Studios effort with related curriculum for high schoolers.

The CEC in Newnan offers video broadcasting coursework in which high school students produce a television program that airs Sunday afternoons on NuLink.

Culinary arts students at the Lanier Charter Academy operate a bistro restaurant that is booked for lunch weeks in advance.

The Newton CCA offers public safety classes and internships; they have a 911-dispatch station that serves as the county’s backup unit.

Programs offered at the Fayette College and Career Academy will be new, and designed to meet the unique needs of our own community. (And Fayette does not currently offer video broadcasting, culinary arts, or public safety.)

Myth #4 — We can’t afford this.

Data from a student/parent survey and an employer needs assessment will soon be in. Until it is, we don’t even know what the programs will be, much less what they will cost or how the partnership may help cover the cost.

The state of Georgia has awarded startup grants to no less than 28 CCAs in the last six years, each one with a budget that is a matter of public record. Let’s find out how 28 systems are making it work for their students.

Myth #5 — We shouldn’t be doing this now. We should wait until our finances are in order.

The CCA presents multiple strategies for optimizing education dollars. Consolidating career classes in a central location means offering these programs to students from all five high schools. This fills the classes even as it improves efficiency.

Offering new programs as college programs means that it is the colleges that pay for equipment, supplies, and the instructor. And having industry partners means private dollars help support the educational programs.

Two weeks after the Troup County School Board passed a resolution of support for their CCA in December 2012, Kia announced a donation of $3 million over the next five years to the Troup County CCA.

Positive communication and strong leadership at the county level can translate into millions of private dollars for the school system. Fayette County cannot afford to overlook these opportunities.

Myth #6 — Our school board doesn’t support a CCA.

Our school board members have participated in CCA tours, meetings and workshops.

Please understand that our school board is facing monumental challenges right now, including school closures, redistricting, personnel, and budget crises.

They have requested that we delay the mutual process of writing the CCA charter documents until 2014 so they can address today’s challenges first; we have respectfully and wholeheartedly agreed.

Join us for an informal discussion of the Fayette College and Career Academy Tuesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sam’s Auditorium at the Lafayette Education Center in Fayetteville. We will hear from students and graduates of the CEC in Newnan. And we might hear a few more myth-busters.

[Kim Learnard, BSEE, M.Ed., is an electrical engineer who started her career installing factory automation systems for General Motors. After ten years with GM, she founded her own technical documentation company, earned a Master’s Degree in Adult Education from UGA, and today continues her career in workforce training. She was elected to Peachtree City Council Post 3 in 2009.]

2pugs4u's picture
Joined: 07/06/2008
Fayette Needs CCA Sooner Than Later

The more I learn about the CCA proposal for Fayette County, the more I believe we need to accelerate not defer its implementation, especially in light of the Pinewoods Studios opportunities that will be coming to Fayette very soon. Delaying until 2014 to submit Charter documents will only mean an even later start and missed local jobs opportunities for Fayette residents.

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