DCSS hopeful for career academy

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County School System is still expressing interest in establishing a career academy locally.

Russ Moore, founder of Seamless Education Associates in Newnan, made another visit to Dougherty County to go over the process of developing the career academy concept in a meeting of the Board of Education's career academy ad-hoc committee at Lake Park Elementary School on Wednesday morning.

Several staff members from the school system were present, including Superintendent Joshua Murfree. The board members in attendance were Velvet Riggins, Darrel Ealum and Carol Tharin.

Moore was in Albany in January to make a presentation on the benefits of establishing a career academy at an informational session before the board. To date, he has had a role in starting nine of the 19 career academies currently operating in Georgia.

His presentation on Wednesday was entitled "Getting Started: Planning and Implementing a College and Career Academy for Dougherty."

The presentation went over ADDIE, which stands for Align/Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate -- and is the recommended process for bringing to life and maintaining a career academy.

"It's a business process that has existed for generations," Moore said.

The first step involves bringing in leaders, parents, the chamber of commerce and local non-profits to the table in order to make a list of problems that the individuals involved would like to solve.

"You, on a basic level, take it all on," Moore said. "You care about every piece of data you get your hands on."

The design phase involves looking at curriculum and pathways, and setting the process up as a joint venture to allow the public and private sectors an opportunity to work together. After that is the development stage, at which point some critical decisions need to be made -- such as where to house the academy, personnel training, marketing techniques and enrollment.

The implementation phase allows for the opening of the facility, while the evaluation phase involves regular needs assessments as well as performance review.

"You really should keep doing (assessments) every three to four years," Moore advised.

As far as developing instructional content goes, Moore's suggestion was to focus more on what it is the community needs.

"To be successful in a (particular) job, you need to determine what post-secondary education they (the students) need," he said. "Then you determine instructional content.

"That's what you do. You think of the result first."

While officials and board members realize the career academy is not a "magic bullet," they also acknowledge that there are benefits to implementing something like this in Dougherty County.

"We want to enhance what we are doing," said Riggins, the committee's chair. "We want to show that this is something we can do in Dougherty.

"We want to make ourselves better. It's about improving what we already have."

The initial timeline would be to formalize a partnership committee as well as acquire and analyze data throughout May and June. After that, it is recommended that the school system develop a task list along with a public timeline.

In the fall, the district is advised to benchmark successful charters and submit a Georgia Career Academies Project grant.