SILVERDALE — Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-23rd District, said ensuring funding for career and technical education is “sort of a back-to-the future kind of effort.”
Rolfes received an award Sept. 13 for her efforts in just that — from the Washington Business Alliance — at Ridgetop Middle School. Aside from the award, she and business alliance members toured what may be the state’s only aviation-based CTE middle-school program.
“This program is new and I think it’s the only program like it in Washington state in a middle school,” Rolfes said. “There’s an aviation-based school in the Renton area, near the Museum of Flight, but to have the aviation program as part of the middle school curriculum, open to all kids, is very, very unique.”
Jene Jones, education policy adviser for the business alliance, said, “Sen. Rolfes picked this middle school because it’s important to see that kids can be exposed to different careers even as early as middle school. It’s an aerospace program, which is very exciting, and it’s very timely, because the construction of [Central Kitsap High School] is going to include a space for both manufacturing and learning to be a pilot.”
Because of Rolfes’ pursuit of CTE funding, the business alliance awarded her the 2017 CTE Legislator of the Year Award “for landmark work on behalf of our Washington students,” the award states.
“This is an exciting day at the end of a really long road,” business alliance president Colleen McAleer said.
She said the business alliance “brought 34 different organizations together” to advocate for more CTE support in Washington public schools.
“The reason why we took this on is because so many of our members kept on saying the biggest barrier to their success was not taxes, not regulations,” McAleer said. “It was the lack of a work force. And our state has done a pretty darn good job on working on four-year degrees and post-secondary education.
“The truth of the matter is that many of the students aren’t going on to post-secondary education, or maybe they’re kinesthetic learners … We all know, contextualized learning really can engage students so they can explore what different areas excite them, and that’s critical for business.”
Jones said Rolfes worked hard to ensure future funding for hands-on, skill-based programs in junior and senior high schools.
“That took some strong advocacy, because there are a lot of things that are looking for funding in Olympia, and she really stood up for this to the last,” Jones said.
Though aviation is only one of many CTE programs at Ridgetop Middle School, and in the Central Kitsap School District as a whole, it stands apart from the others as a relatively new program with advanced technology allowing students to experience flight simulation. When the new high school campus is completed in time for the 2019-20 school year, the students will have the opportunity to continue education in that field to be pilots or manufacturers.
“I wanted the folks, especially the local-area workforce development leaders to the Seattle business leaders … to see how cool it is here,” Rolfes said. “What we really want to do here is help show off this school district.”
When she received the award from the business alliance, Rolfes said, “It is so rare to have this kind of program in a middle school,” but the dedication to CTE in the school district truly helped ensure continued and additional funding.
“CTE has been a priority for years for our school districts and our parents and our businesses,” Rolfes said. “It has been really rewarding to make those partnerships across the aisle and across the state and finally get the recognition that it’s not all about four-year colleges. It’s also about professional training.
“And I maintain that whether kids are headed for a four-year program or not, all the students should have access to CTE training, either for their professions or because it enhances your life.”
To learn more about Career and Technical Education opportunities in the Central Kitsap School District, go to www.ckschools.org.