On Thursday, Congressman Ron Wright visited the WHS Career & Technical Education wing with his D.C. staff. Wright represents the sixth district of Texas, which serves the southeast Dallas/Fort Worth area, plus part of Tarrant County and Ellis and Navarro counties.
Wright is touring the district’s education systems to help his staff get a better idea of their needs and strengths before heading back to Washington. His last stop of the day was the new Waxahachie High School.
Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said she was proud to show off WHS’s state of the art Career & Technical Education facilities and program to Wright, who is a standing member of the House Committee on Education and Labor. The CTE facilities and program are part of the new high school, which opened in the fall 2018.
The group started out exploring the wing’s automotive shop. They examined the cars the students were tasked with repairing before heading on to the welding and metal-working shops, where sparks were flying. One student was even inside an old donated smoker, resealing the metal on the interior to make it as good as new for Texas barbecue.
Next, the tour arrived at the wing’s arts and A/V technology classes studios, which boasts a four-piece band sound booth and a large green screen. The congressman also greeted a team of students developing a stop-motion film. He invited them to stop by his office for a Dr. Pepper and tour if their TSA or UIL competitions ever take them to D.C.
Afterwards, they entered a health science class being taught by a registered nurse, with students crowded around a dummy plugged into a hospital bed monitor. A student checked Wright’s heart rate and he jokingly laughed, “They checked my pulse to prove a congressman does have a heart.”
The tour finished off with the representative shaking hands with an instructor from the criminal justice course, looking in on the massive cosmetology lab and eating delicacies at a reception hosted by the student-run restaurant, The Reservation, which is located on campus and open to the public from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on select Wednesdays.
Wright and his staff applauded the students’ culinary skills as they stood shyly behind the serving counter.
The congressional tour members said they were “amazed” by everything WISD has poured into its CTE program. More than 70 million jobs are left unfilled today because of a lack of technical education and skill, with Wright saying he believes it is programs like the ones promoted at WHS that will fix the situation.
It was noted, however, that these programs often face misperception in regard to their usefulness. In reality, students can earn workforce training and a certification for free before ever stepping on a college campus. They can use the certification to help them get a good job and pay their way through college. One such certification offered at WHS deals with pharmaceuticals.
“We have basically told two generations of Americans that if you are not sitting in a college classroom then you’re not getting an education and we know that’s wrong,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of ways to get an education. We want kids to go to college. Don’t get me wrong, but we know that a lot won’t, which is why this is so great. What you’re doing here is unbelievable and I will hold Waxahachie High School up as a model for what can be done. My hat’s off to you.”
Cain credits the WISD CTE program’s success to partnering with local companies and industry professionals to ensure the students are getting the tools and training they need. It is a relationship she said she wants to continue to foster and “stay in tune” with. If not, students can end up getting trained in the wrong areas, wasting taxpayer dollars and leaving those 70 million jobs Wright expressed concern about unfilled.
Previously there had been a wall between school districts, CTE programs and businesses in general but WISD is a part of the wave tearing that wall down, with Cain saying, “It’s a win-win,” because students are getting educated in the right areas and businesses are getting the workforce professionals they need.
Wright and his staff noted they were impressed and satisfied, indicating as they left that they want to visit Waxahachie again. They said they will continue to work toward getting necessary education bills onto the House floor.