Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dallas students get look at 9 schools focusing on career pathways

By TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News
January 31, 2010

It was a smorgasbord of career choices at an event Saturday that showcased several redesigned Dallas high schools.

Parents and students who attended the event, targeted at eighth-graders, received information on current and new "career pathway" offerings at nine high schools. The magnet-like programs include a performing arts academy at Woodrow Wilson High School to a public safety academy at Madison High School.

"We're talking about having pockets of excellence in a school system," said Jose Torres, DISD's executive director of parent services and school choice.

The Dallas Independent School District came up with the idea to redesign the campuses as a way to provide parents and students with more educational options. Typically, Dallas students who wanted to focus on a career while attending high school had to compete for a spot at the district's coveted magnet campuses.

"It just gives you more choices and more alternatives," said Lavina Durman, who attended Saturday's event at Woodrow Wilson with her daughter, Michaela Durman.

District officials hope even more students take advantage of the program next year, when it will expand to nine campuses from the current seven.

Last year, the district enrolled 263 applicants in the program, said Carroll Morgan, DISD's coordinator for parental public choice.

Students interested in entering one of the career programs at their home campus can do so without applying, unless the program is grant-financed, Morgan said. Campuses have been agreeable to providing at least 5 percent of their space to outside enrollees, she said.

District officials said that space in the programs is limited and that a lottery system will be used if needed. The application period for students entering the ninth grade in the 2010-11 school year runs Monday through Feb. 26.

The district plans to add more schools to the program each year until all 22 high schools have the classes, Morgan said.

Transportation will not be provided by the district, which some parents took into consideration Saturday.

"When you're short on time, you really want it to come down to location, and you want your school to be close," parent Kimmy Wright said.

At some of the campuses participating in Saturday's showcase students were already taking part in the career classes.

Conrad High School students Misty Ramirez and Jordan Prasifka were at the event to discuss why they like their school's career offerings. Ramirez talked about the school's culinary program and student-managed restaurant. Prasifka, who is in Conrad's science, technology, engineering and mathematics program, demonstrated the use of a robot that reacts by sound.

"It's a really good choice, a good beginning," Prasifka said of the career program. "I see it opening up a lot of opportunity."

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