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Gearing up for the future: Roseburg’s automotive program has impacted students, school’s CTE programs are nationally recognized

May 3, 2019

Noah Crawford has always enjoyed working on cars, getting his hands dirty and learning how to get a broken down vehicle back on the road.

Thanks to Measure 98 funding, automotive classes were added at Roseburg High School at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and Crawford had a place to expand his skills.

“I knew that I always liked working on cars, and coming in here it made me like working on cars even more,” the high school senior said.

There are currently about 90 students in Auto 1 or Auto 2 classes. Upper-level classes like Auto 3 and 4 will be added in the 2019-20 school year. Roseburg’s automotive program is designed to take three years.

“Students will complete 218 hands-on tasks, as well as various Work Employability Standards,” RHS automotive technology teacher Don Zell said. “We focus on electrical knowledge and hands-on skills needed for a student to go into the automotive industry upon completion.”

As a senior, Crawford won’t be able to complete the three-year program, but he was able to earn 10 student/entry level Automotive Service Excellence certifications free of charge. Students can earn factory certifications from Subaru, Ford and Chrysler while in the programl.

“He’s a stricter teacher, but I like that about him. He knows what he’s talking about,” Crawford said of Zell. The course also has reviews, similar to employment reviews, where students focus on wearing appropriate attire, having good work ethic and keeping up with the course work.

Students in automotive technology, as well as several other programs, can also earn college credit and become certified while still in high school.

“Dual credit has been a wonderful way for high school students to get a taste of college-level classes and start building expectations of how much more independent and self-motivated they will need to become as learners,” said Georgann Willis, an associate professor in social science at Umpqua Community College. “The opportunity to start earning credits that will lighten their load when they transition to college is also a great way to help them enjoy a successful transition.”

Crawford is headed to Linn-Benton Community College to study heavy equipment and diesel technology, a course not offered at UCC.

“I don’t think I would’ve chosen my path as a diesel mechanic if I hadn’t taken this class,” Crawford said.

Health Occupation pathways are also being added at RHS, joining woodworking, welding, business, manufacturing, drafting, agricultural science, early childhood education and culinary arts as the Career Technical Education offerings at Douglas County’s largest high school.

Creating two new courses hasn’t been the only addition. The school is also investing money in continued teacher training, keeping up with the latest technology and hiring a graduation coach.

Assistant Principal Brett Steinacher said enrollment in CTE courses has increased by 16% in the past five years.

“This increase is derived by two factors,” he added. “Overall, more students are taking CTE courses, and many students are taking multiple CTE courses.”

Roseburg’s CTE programs are nationally recognized and its instructors have received national accolades.

One of the things that makes Roseburg CTE stand out is its dedication to include non-traditional students in its courses, such as boys in early childhood education and girls in welding.

“RHS CTE is part of a case study for new materials that (the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity) is using in their toolkits that is based on what we did in manufacturing,” said Sheri Carson, RHS career technical director and culinary arts instructor.

Roseburg was able to increase the number of girls enrolled in its welding course from two to 38 within a semester.

CTE programs at Roseburg are required to have a student organization associated with the programs, where students can learn to put the information learned in the classroom into action.

Orenco Senior Vice President Jeff Ball said the Sutherlin-based manufacturer of wastewater technologies hired more than a dozen Roseburg High School graduates.

“The kids we’d hire knew the fundamentals,” Ball said. “They were talented enough that they could start right after high school.”

Career and technical education courses in high schools are often taught by instructors with experience in the industry. CTE teachers need a minimum of 2,000 hours of relevant business and industry experience in the career they want to teach.

“One goal is for our students to build their skills on the same equipment and industry similar facilities and environments that they will experience in careers here in Douglas County,” Steinacher said. “Each of our programs also raise funds through product sales such as custom fire pits, hardwood furniture, plant sales, catering services and more. All of which goes directly back into our programs and student experiences in preparation for post-secondary education, a career or the services.”

According to Stand for Children Oregon, a non-profit education advocacy organization, 466 CTE teachers applied for licenses in 2017-18.

Once a school district hires them, teachers can apply for a CTE license where they would need to pass the Civil Rights & Professional Ethics test and have a district-assigned mentor. Forms will then be sent to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission and a three-year professional development plan will be developed in association with the school.

Having someone with knowledge in the field also helps the students get ready for careers.

Early Childhood Education students work at the schools’ child development center and learn lessons to get them ready for a career in the field.

“They gain hands-on experience by working in our RHS Child Development Center, often learning the lessons most of us developed on our first job,” said Mary Malepsy, an Early Childhood Education teacher. “For example, showing up on time, communicating absences, developing initiatives, following safety and sanitation guidelines, meeting deadlines, maintaining a positive attitude and developing positive working relationships. Students not only learn professional skills, they develop important parenting skills, gaining knowledge about how to have a healthy pregnancy, child care skills and positive guidance techniques.”

Students in the other programs also have the opportunity to enter the workforce with entry-level jobs, or students can choose to continue their education to get a better paying job.

“(Culinary students) can do entry-level to mid-level jobs depending on how many and which of the classes they have taken in my area,” Carson said. “They can enter into the industry and continue with hands-on training through an employer or they can go to a community college that has the certificate that they are seeking or a trade school.”

While many of the programs are already established, the automotive program is still in its infancy. In fact, the class to graduate from the automotive program are just sophomores now.

But at Roseburg’s annual PRIDE night, where incoming freshmen are introduced to the various courses, automotive was a popular stop.

To help those incoming freshmen, Roseburg is offering a summer transition course to help students build relationships with educators prior to attending the school.

According to Roseburg Principal Jill Weber’s presentation to Salem lawmakers, Roseburg High School’s freshmen on track statistics increased from 73% in 2015 to 85% in 2018, with a 5% increase from 2016 to 2017 when funding for CTE became available. Freshmen on-track measures how well students in their first year of high school are doing when it comes to meeting state standards for graduation.

“The school has been able to focus on improving graduation rates and targeting at-risk students, which is beneficial to everyone,” Malepsy said.

For the 2017-18 school year, the graduation rate at Roseburg High School was 76.1%, but increased to 83.2% for CTE participants and 89.9% for CTE concentrators.

Roseburg has also ramped up college-level opportunities for its students, and teachers at the high school took training on Advanced Placement courses. Students can now choose from various classes, with more than 250 college credits available to students.