For the July 1st Ronnie column, the Mayor set up a meeting with Dr. Tom Sisk, who heads up the Limestone County schools. We met in Dr. Sisk’s office, and were treated to a preview of a new video that has been produced to promote the Career Technical Center. Honestly, the production was so good, that it made me wish I was back in high school and could enroll in not just one, but many of their programs, and Mayor Marks was equally enthusiastic.
Mayor Ronnie happened to notice that Dr. Sisk had a copy of The Little Engine That Could on the credenza in the office, and, as the man who dons his own Dr. Seuss hat to read Horton Hears A Who to primary school kids, Mayor Marks jumped up, whipped out his phone, took a picture of the book cover, and requested that we use it to illustrate this edition’s column.
“You know,” he said, as he returned back to the conference table, “This perfectly illustrates what is happening at the Career Technical Center.” Dr. Sisk smiled, and the two of them concluded, “Limestone County Career Technical Center is not the Little Engine That Could, it is the Little Engine That Will.” I added that it could also be referred to as The Little Engine That Does.
So, why is what is going on at CTC so special? It is what has been made available to the kids, and the way it was developed, improved, and upgraded. Dr. Sisk went to “the captains of industry” in our area and beyond, and asked, “What do you need from our kids?” They responded with a number of things that went way beyond competency and literacy, but also included attitudes, general ethics, and work habits. There are now 23 career paths that can be taken, with two more in the offing, and which will be unveiled in October. They range in scope from health science to fire fighting to computer assisted design to robotics to culinary arts to auto and diesel mechanic certification.
“Certified diesel mechanics were one of the biggest needs that local industry leaders told us they needed,” said Dr. Tom. Another thing I found impressive about the promotional video as well as the literature that Dr. Tom asked me to take with him was that industry leaders indicated what they were willing to pay these kids when they graduated. This ranged from entry level positions to what they could expect if they made their chosen field a permanent one, and let’s just say, it’s more than I make!! Right now the CTC is undergoing extensive remodeling and renovation, and with over 500 students graduating this past spring, it is forecast that next year there will be 1,000.
Mayor Marks and Dr. Sisk are also very glad that the former stigma that was long attached to a “voc-tech” track as being for “just blue collar workers” is fading away at warp speed, and thankfully so. No longer does anyone feel that the only people who are truly educated are those who have finished university, and the CTC is living proof of that.
Mayor Marks finished our time by telling Dr. Sisk that he “had never seen the energy level in this office as high as it is,” and he thanked “Doc” for all his hard work. Then, as is always the case, it was time for Ronnie, and this time, Tom, to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner