LTUSD, LTCC district meet to discuss joint education
The Lake Tahoe Community College and the Lake Tahoe Unified School District boards gathered Tuesday evening at Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) to discuss ongoing efforts to further mesh educational opportunities at South Tahoe High School (STHS) and LTCC.
At the heart of the conversation was the “Get Focused Stay Focused” (GFSF) program, which aims to help high school freshmen find who they are and what their interests are in order to create a 10-year school and career plan.
The program, which is set to begin at the high school this fall, consists of a semester course that aims to teach the freshmen students critical thinking skills that will in turn help them discover what path they want to take. The course will culminate with the creation of the 10-year plan.
After that, the students are projected to be able to continue to develop their plan through a computer app that will keep track of their progress, will allow the student to update the plan and will provide access to the plan with personal devices.
“So, [by the end of ninth-grade] they’ve already learned who they are, what they want and how to get it. In the 10th-grade … they’re going to do some looking at high demand careers,” Coordinator of GFSF Mary Wolf told the boards.
According to data included in the presentation, the STHS-LTCC connection will be committing the most students of the seven separate school connections included in the Greater Sacramento/Northern Inland Pilot Program, with 280.
Funds for the pilot program will come from SB 1070, which was passed in an effort to strengthen links between different educational levels in order to improve postsecondary education.
The grant will fund textbooks and workbooks, professional development, teacher training, presentations to the school boards, student tracking and a launch breakfast on May 18.
The plan is set to address different aspects of reaching career and educational goals, including what career opportunities exist within certain educational fields, what educational paths a student needs to take to build a desired career, how much school will cost, how much different fields pay and several other guiding factors.
During the semester course, the students will be able to identify the lifestyle they want to live and figure out how to get there, Wolf said.
“They develop this core. Who am I? What are my strengths, what are my values, what are my interests?” she said.
“They have to make decisions. They say, ‘well, I want this lifestyle, but I’m picking a career that makes this much. I either have to change my lifestyle or modify my career so I can afford it.”
The program is also designed to encourage students to work harder in school once they know where they are going, Wolf said.
“Maybe instead of slacking off and not showing up to geometry class, they know that that geometry class is critical for them if this is what their career path is,” Wolf said.
Still, the issue regarding the young age in which the students are approaching these long-term life decisions was discussed.
“As I remember high school, you change your plans,” LTCC Board member Jeff Cowen said. “Have you provided this kind of flexibility so that, as the kids mature and grow up, that it accommodates their changes?”
Wolf responded that the idea is to have a lot of flexibility in the plan and continued access to the app so that students can revisit it as their opinions and ideas change. The single-semester course includes aspects of self-evaluation as well as planning. However, it was not clear if that structured self-evaluation process will continue through the years and if more tools other than the app will be provided past freshman year.
In addition to GFSF, the boards also discussed different aspects of the joint educational effort, mostly revolving around different approaches to dual education.
The schools currently share instructors and facilities in different programs. The high school also offers classes that earn the students college credits.
“The classes are perfectly aligned and the students are transitioning very well into the college program,” said Virginia Boyar, Dean of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Instruction at LTCC.
“Now we have these emerging relationships for use in the CTE facilities,” she added.
The conversation focused on several technical programs that, with the $64.5 million from Measure G, the high school has been able to built modern facilities for, including digital media arts, dental, automotive, sports medicine, culinary arts and marketing.
The strategy also centered largely on creating educational opportunities for jobs offered locally, namely in hospitality, tourism and recreation (HTR). The majority of jobs offered in the Tahoe area are in HTR, Boyar said.
“The vision remains the same. A seamless, efficient, educational system that leverages our education, business and community relationships,” she said.
“We want to look at a deeper curricular alignment of our common-core subjects,” said Ivone Larson, assistant superintendant of Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
Moving forward, the board acknowledged that the collaborative effort is still in its infancy and the two boards will need to continue to explore options.
“At this point what we’re proposing is a toe in the water with “Get Focused Stay Focused.” We will then lead, based on the success of the program, into career technical education programs,” Boyar said.