Kansas Commissioner of Education recognizes Northwest’s CTE program


Senior Derek Thurston showcases the skills he is learning in Machine Tools 1. He plans on using these skills in his future engineering career.

Haley Cooper, Editor in chief

Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, stopped by Northwest on Feb. 17 to celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) month. Watson and other representatives from the Department of Education visited Machine Tools 1, taught by Bryan Jones, members of the Pro-Start program led by Alison Draut, and Jeff Darr’s Marketing Research class.

Watson hoped to measure how his visions of teaching both college readiness and employability skills are being carried out in the classrooms. Northwest was the place to visit in part because of the 38-40 CTE courses it offers, including 14-18 different career pathways.

Gary Oborny, Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF) co-chair attested to the success of the business pathway at Northwest. He credits the growth of an elementary school business program, from one competition to now three competitions, to Northwest DECA. This initiative was led by seniors Matthew Colborn, Kyle Wegleitner, Dakota West.

“DECA and Northwest High has been very helpful in developing that program and also starting to scale it,” Oborny said. “They’ve done a great job, represented their age group really well and done tremendous service to the community.”

Draut’s Pro-Start program has achieved similar success. In her classroom, recently renovated to reflect the equipment used in real commercial restaurant facilities, students are able to earn industry-recognized certificates. Junior Nicole Shartzer was able to earn two promotions at her job thanks to the certification earned in class.

Neely Carson, who serves on the CTE advisory committee, says this is exactly what the CTE program hopes to achieve.

“It’s all about cultivating the next group of leaders within our industries,” Carson said.

Principal Gil Alvarez is pleased to see the commissioner’s vision being achieved within the school.

“When you talk about college and career ready skills, employability skills, the critical thinking, the problem solving, the collaboration that you have,” Alvarez said. “It’s everything we want students to be able to do when they leave.”

Ron Weddle, director of the Wichita Manufacturing Association, understands that there is still work left to be done.

“I don’t think there are enough kids going into particularly the manufacturing world to meet the needs coming forward,” Weddle said. “They have the basic skill sets, they’re all great with their fingers and their iPads. That’s the factory of the future. We just need to make sure they understand how to use those skill sets.”

Northwest’s CTE program is moving toward doing just that, which is very important in Carson’s eyes.

“We have to prepare kids for the next step in life,” Carson said. “We have to get them ready to enter the workforce.”