CTE STATUS CHECK: Changes are already apparent

(CLARE) – Five months after voters approved a dedicated millage for Career & Technical Education students in Clare and Gladwin Counties, big changes are afoot. But even bigger improvements lie in the months and years to come.

Leaders at CTE and the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District, which oversees the program, provided some details recently.

“First and foremost, CTE enrollment is up almost 100 students, or 30 percent, for a total of 329,” said CTE Director Sandy Russell. “That’s a welcome increase, driven in part by our ability to restore Welding Technology and add Business Management, and also through awareness about CTE raised early in the year.”

The Welding Technology program has 26 total students in its morning and afternoon sessions, and Business Management has 15 in its afternoon session. Beyond that, an additional 60 students joined existing programs in comparison to the previous school year.

Other notable current improvements include a new hoist for afternoon Auto Technology students, whose class is housed at Gladwin High School; a new mobile computer lab obtained for Business Management students, providing the proper technology for their focus of study; a registered nurse who serves as the paraeducator and certification trainer in the Health Occupations classes; and new textbooks in several classes.

The upgrade making the biggest splash in 2017 will undoubtedly be the construction of a new building designed to house students in the Construction Trades program, who in the absence of a dedicated project have spent much of their time in the classroom working on scaled-down projects. That project will be especially meaningful because the students themselves will provide as much of the labor as possible.

“That’s going to be a big deal, both for the long-term advancement of the class, and for the immediate hands-on experience our Construction Trades students will gain working on their new home,” said CGRESD Superintendent Sheryl Presler. “We’re eager to get started on it, and we’re proceeding with a pragmatic sense of not only the immediate educational benefits to the Construction students, but of the long-term potential for that building to also house other high-demand classes, like Manufacturing.”

While students in the morning Construction Trades class are splitting time between their classroom and the work site at the John C. Magnus Center – the location of the new building – their afternoon counterparts are already well into an exciting year-long project.

“Our relationship with the Gladwin County Land Bank Authority continues to provide benefits to everyone involved,” Presler said. “We’re very pleased that our afternoon Construction students are about five weeks into building a brand-new home in Gladwin which the LBA will then put on the market. Our students will spend the school year gaining a wide variety of hands-on employable skills, and the LBA will be able to use the funds to continue securing new properties for future projects.”

Russell said staff and students alike are showing great enthusiasm for the upgrades to their classrooms and workspaces, and that the overiding feeling at CTE is optimism for what the future holds.

“Students are excited about the opportunities CTE can provide in their post-high school lives,” she said. “And there’s a real sense that CTE is making huge strides for our high school students in Clare and Gladwin Counties.”



Right Place, Right Time: New CTE Director is Ready to Work

Sandra Russell brings a wealth of experience and skills in education to her new position as CTE Program Director.

(CLARE) – For new Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education Program Director Sandra Russell, it’s all about timing.

Russell officially joined the CTE staff at the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District in early July. She comes to the organization at an exciting juncture for CTE, following voters’ approval of a dedicated CTE millage this spring. Both the short-term program improvements and the long-term potential were enticing to Russell.

“I am here because I fully believe that education is the foundation of the success of our communities and our world,” Russell said. “Training an innovative, highly skilled workforce is the key to a highly prosperous community. I am passionate about helping to build productive, skilled, well-educated employees to ensure prosperity for our families and businesses.”

Russell joined CTE after 18 years as a school administrator, particularly at the middle school level, with additional leadership responsibilities in Title I, athletics and special education. Most recently, she was the principal at Alma Middle School. CGRESD Superintendent Sheryl Presler believes Russell is the right person in the right place as the CTE program takes a profound leap forward.

“Sandy’s a proven leader whose credentials to manage CTE are hard to beat,” Presler said. “She’s hitting the ground running at a time when the program is really taking off, and she’s already done a lot of homework, getting to know the program, the instructors and the working environment.” 

Russell and Presler have seized the opportunity afforded by the millage’s passage to make sure students receive maximum benefit.

“CTE is an essential component bridging local businesses and this emerging workforce of young adults,” Russell said. “We’ll continue to strengthen our relationships with those stakeholders to ensure that our students receive viable opportunities – in terms of both training and placement – to best use the skills they’ve learned in our programs. We want to build this CTE program into a world-class training ground so our students can skillfully compete in local and global job markets.”

Helping train young adults to enter the workforce has always held appeal for Russell, who was inspired as a child to become an educator in part as she watched her family struggle to find viable education options for her older sister, who is developmentally disabled.

“What gives me the most satisfaction is seeing students become hardworking, committed members of their communities,” she said. “I love walking into a business and seeing one of my former students being successful and productive in a job that they love. Knowing that you had a small part in that life-long success for a young person is such a gift.”