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Local education: Where do we go from here?

Posted at 1:47 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 19:28:18-05

The future of Corpus Christi will be determined by how we educate our population in order to ensure a bright future. According to local educators, that means changes must be made.

According to Conrado Garcia, West Oso ISD’s Superintendent, the future of Corpus Christi is currently looking bright, and so is the future of our students.

“I believe kids are really at the best place at the best time right now,” Garcia said.

However, Dr. Janet Cunningham, a member of Citizens for Educational Excellence, a group aimed at improving local education, says that wasn’t always the case.

“We had to look at where we are,” Dr. Cunningham said. “For the region and we had to develop a plan as to what are we going to do?”

In October 2017, an education strategic plan was created with help from Citizens for Educational Excellence. The plan has one goal: for 60 percent of the Corpus Christi population to attain a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2030, also known as 60 by 30.

Currently, about 45 percent of the population have one, a number that Dr. Cunningham believes, is clearly inadequate.

“Students need something beyond high school and right now,” Dr. Cunningham said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

The goal of the plan is creating a strong economy with a talented and educated workforce. As many new industries are moving into the Coastal Bend, so are the jobs. Those jobs require more technical training and education than what is currently offered.

“So we have to really prepare our students for these jobs,” Dr. Cunningham said. “And that hasn’t been on our radar for the last maybe 20 years.”

School districts like West Oso ISD believe in providing hands-on internship opportunities to their students, as well as dual-credit classes.

“When that kid walks across that stage, [we hope] that he or she has more than a high school diploma,” Garcia said.

It begins with the youngest students. The district has taken recent initiatives like introducing science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM classes in pre-K.

Garcia said it’s a bold move West Oso ISD has taken, but the idea is to fully prepare students for college.

Meanwhile, college and university representatives say students are coming in with more valuable skill sets, largely due to recent efforts taken at the school level.

KRIS 6 spoke to Dr. Leonard Rivera, Del Mar College’s Continuing Education Dean, who says the College is working closer with industries that are looking to hire students out of college.

“There’s a demand for such skills that the industrialists and business men and women are looking for,” Dr. Rivera said. “Because that’s inherent of what they’ll be doing in the workplace.”

To meet that demand, Del Mar College is leaning toward implementing more fast-track programs. These programs can be completed in a year or less.

“It’s a pathway. It’s an entry point,” Dr. Rivera said. “That’s a great attribute to have because that student is now able to be employable right off the bat.”

However getting those students workforce ready, and reaching that goal of 60 by 30 isn’t going to be easy. Educators KRIS 6 spoke to, believe it’s going to be a city-wide effort.

“[We’re] Really infusing the relationships between schools, businesses and industry and higher education across the whole region,” Dr. Scott Elliff said, a current TAMUCC instructor and former CCISD Superintendent. “But we’re going to have to have a lot of walls come down.”

“Teamwork works,” Dr. Cissy Reynolds-Perez said, West Oso ISD’s assistant superintendent. “We do need many people a part of this team in order for our kids to succeed.”

Meanwhile, the overall Corpus Christi High School graduation rate is 90%. That’s up about 3% over the past two years.