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Vocational high school proposed

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By AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 14, 2017

NASHVILLE — If all goes well with the approval process, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools will have a new high school next fall at little extra cost to taxpayers.

Mark Cockrell, chief academic officer for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and Christine Catalano, executive director of middle school and advanced programs, recently presented the plans to school board members. They intend to submit the application to the N.C. State Board of Education this week for approval.

“Our hope is that the information that we provide tonight will excite you as it has the multiple groups from Nash-Rocky Mount, Nash Community College and all the other parties who have collaborated in completing this application,” Cockrell told school board members.

The new school will fall under the legislative auspices of the Cooperative Innovative High School like the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School. However, the school will have a new name designed to suit its purpose.

“The name of Cooperative Innovative High School is the name of the legislation,” Catalano said. “The proposed school will be named CITI High School, which is the brain child of Dr. Jefferies. This stands for the Center for Industry, Technology and Innovation.”

Cockrell said the school will focus on helping students learn marketable skills while earning a high school diploma and either an associate degree or stackable certificates that will increase their opportunities for employment.

“This will provide our students with the opportunity to prepare for the 21st century workforce or college through earned credentials upon graduation. So basically what this means is that we will provide students immediate opportunities to enter the 21st century workforce with a degree, a diploma or multiple certificates preparing them for industries located within our region,” Cockrell said.

Cockrell said that 100 percent of CITI high school graduates will obtain a high school diploma from Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools and also will complete an associate in applied science degree or certificate from Nash Community College. The school will offer a five-year track similar to the Nash-Rocky Mount Early College High School.

The school will be located on the campus of Rocky Mount Middle School, which will be adapted for the use by the construction of a wall to separate middle school and high school students. Students at CITI High School also will have a separate entrance. By doing so, the school district makes use of the available space at Rocky Mount Middle School.

“This is something we have needed for a long time,” said Nash County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robbie Davis in a later interview.

Davis has long been an advocate for a technical high school open to all high school students in the school district. 

“We have a lot of kids in this area who, for one reason or another, will likely not be able to go to college after high school, and we need to give them the means to make a good living,” he said. “This would help solve a lot of problems around here.”

From the perspective of a business owner, Davis also sees the benefit.

“In the 70s, we used to have trade classes in all the high schools to give students a trade when they left school,” Davis said. “But it has been so long since we have had an effort to promote trades that businesses have a hard time finding skilled workers. In the construction industry, the average age of employees is 55-60 and there is no backfilling of younger people prepared to take on these jobs.”

Catalano said the school board hopes to see preliminary approval for the project by the end of the year but will not find out if it has final approval and the requested funding until the N.C. General Assembly meets next year. If approved, the school plans to accept applications of up to 100 students the first year and plans to grow the school by 100 students each year until it reaches 500 students.

The application process for CITI High School will also be handled in a way similar to the early college. The application process will be open to all rising 9th- and 10th-grade high school students in the school district. Final results will be determined via a lottery process.

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