County schools to expand career academies with federal grant
By Sherri C. Ranta
An $11 million federal grant will help expand the number of career academies during the 2006-07 year in several Miami-Dade public high schools.
The district already offers career academies in many of its high schools but will work to create multiple academies within some, said Sherri Futch-James, director of secondary programs. Funds are coming from the US Department of Education.
The career-theme academies will allow students to be grouped within a school, providing for increased attention and learning opportunities for older students and a smoother transition for incoming freshmen. Each senior, Ms. Futch-James said, will have the opportunity for an internship or dual enrollment in a college.
Academies will expand at Barbara Goleman, Hialeah, Homestead, Miami, Miami Central, Miami Coral Park, Miami Southridge, Miami Springs, Miami Sunset and Felix Varela senior high schools.
The county's school system began developing career academies several years ago in industries targeted for expansion by One Community, One Goal, a strategic plan sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
At that time, she said, the district developed academies in five areas: biomedicine, film and entertainment, finance, information technology/telecommunications and hospitality and tourism.
A variety of academies exist throughout the county at many high schools, she said. The programs include aviation at Homestead and Hialeah, hospitality and tourism at Miami Springs, sports marketing at American, insurance at North Miami Beach and a culinary arts program at Coral Gables.
The district, Ms. Futch-James said, will look to create academies in areas such as real estate and construction.
"We're really seeing a lot of growth in that area" in the county, she said.
John A. Ferguson High School in western Kendall opened this year offering multiple academies - design and architecture, hospitality and tourism, international baccalaureate, international business and finance, information technology and medical/biomedical.
"We received the money last year and will begin implementation this year in ninth grade," she said.
Some high schools, such as the new John A. Ferguson, Ms. Futch-James said, could have enrollments approaching 4,000. The academies enable the district to cluster students in areas of interest and better prepare them to enter the working world or for college studies.
Many Miami-Dade companies may be unaware of the opportunities for involvement with the school district academies.
Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Lettie Bien said she recently introduced Burger King executives to the culinary arts program at Coral Gables Senior High. The company was looking for equipment testers and tasters and was having trouble finding people in its desired demographic, ages 17 to 21.
School and Burger King executives, many graduates of key culinary arts schools and programs, Ms. Bien said, have now met to discuss ways they can support each other's needs.