On Friday, August 14, 2015, I attended another meeting of Alignment Southwest Charlotte (“ASWC”) at Central Steele Creek Presbyterian Church where my friend Luke Mabry is pastor. In the Spring, Superintendent Ann Clark spoke to a similar meeting of the group and described Alignment Southwest Charlotte and Olympic High School as “a beacon for the district and for the nation”.
For those unfamiliar, Olympic High School is actually a community of schools with career academies, working in brilliant collaboration with area businesses, particularly the Arrowood Business Association. The Bosch Rexroth Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center at Olympic has garnered national and international raves.
But students are not born into the 11th grade fully formed. The magic of ASWC is that on Friday, August 14, 2015, the room was filled not just with leaders at Olympic and their business partners, but also with the elementary and middle school feeder schools, parents and community and faith leaders like Rev. Mabry. Through these broader connections, more kids are being introduced, for example, to Lego and Jr. Lego programs, getting them excited about the simple building blocks of a future career. Even better than reaching a kid, is reaching a teacher, and ASWC is the catalyst in the STEMersion program, where this year 50 teachers visited area employers like Siemens, Bosch, Time Warner Cable, Piedmont Natural Gas, and learned clearly how, for example, third grade reading and math, or high school trigonometry, are used in today’s careers. http://www.cmslearns.org/stemersion-2015/
In the Charlotte area there are currently 30,000 vacant IT jobs and another 6,000 vacant advanced manufacturing jobs. These companies supporting Olympic and the Southwest Charlotte community are not doing so out of charity, but self-interest. They smartly recognize that tomorrow’s workforce is in K-12 today, and that many of the jobs of today, and the future, do not require a four year degree, but demonstrated aptitude, interest, and workplace skills.
This is particularly important where Olympic High School as recently as 2005 was called “academic genocide” by the Leandro court, with an EOG passage rate of 53%. Still with 40% economically disadvantaged students, and a demographic profile equaling the county as a whole, the METS program at Olympic this year hit 89% composite EOG.
THIS IS LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, and the BEST POSSIBLE CURE WE HAVE TO DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES – CAREERS.
The highlight of Friday’s ASWC meeting was Superintendent Clark announcing to the group a plan to replicate Olympic’s best practices at North Mecklenburg High School. She told attendees to expect calls from organizers there and be willing to share their best practices. She received roaring ovation in reply.