Friday Sept. 27 UPDATE: In case you’re a parent or student wondering about who is eligible for the future P-TECH school, here’s the full list of K-12 districts participating in the grant, in no particular order: Valhalla, Nyack, Nanuet, Pearl River, East Ramapo, Ramapo Central, North Rockland, Clarkstown, Ossining, Bedford, Tarrytown, White Plains, South Orangetown, Croton and Peekskill.
By Mareesa Nicosia, firstname.lastname@example.org, @MareesaNicosia
There’s APPR, CSE, IEP and STEM, among many others.
Now add P-TECH to the list of educational acronyms creating a buzz around the Lower Hudson Valley these days.
P-TECH stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School, and you may have heard of it because a school in Brooklyn has been generating lots of positive attention in the U.S. and abroad as it pioneers the concept.
The idea is a technology-centric vocational school where students graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, prepared to head off to work for one of the school’s corporate partners, like IBM, or pursue a more advanced college degree.
P-TECH spawned from STEM — another acronym you’ve probably heard of, especially if you’re a high school student or the parent of one.
The federal push to develop the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and encourage students to pursue careers in those fields has become a mainstay of President Obama’s education reform agenda; the administration has committed $3.1 billion to STEM education in next year’s budget.
Earlier this year, Obama lauded the Brooklyn school in his State of the Union address and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to replicate the P-TECH model throughout the state.
In the Lower Hudson Valley, Rockland BOCES and its partners have taken the lead in that effort.
Rockland BOCES was one of 16 recipients of a grant worth up to $2.6 million that a consortium of educators and business partners will use to create the Hudson Valley P-TECH High School. If all goes smoothly this year, the school would open next September.
Using the Brooklyn school as a model, the Hudson Valley school would prepare students for high-skill jobs in technology, manufacturing and healthcare.
Students from all the participating public districts — all eight in Rockland and several in Westchester and Putnam — would be eligible to enroll. In its inaugural year, the school would enroll about 100 ninth-graders and add one new grade each year to reach the 600-student capacity by 2020.
BOCES assistant superintendent Charlene Jordan led the lengthy and intense grant application process this spring and said the agency was notified in late August that it was among 16 winners of the statewide competition.
In our interview last week, Jordan accepted my congratulations (“We’re excited”) but said the real work is just beginning.
“This year is the planning year — planning for what the school will look like and how to do recruitment, finding a principal, looking for businesses and other private support to secure funding,” she said.
Between now and next September, the most daunting task for Jordan and her team will be to raise funding to ensure the P-TECH school vision is realized. The grant, which will be distributed in annual increments of about $400,000, is only a fraction of the school’s prospective budget, Jordan said, though she didn’t share specific figures.
BOCES will seek other grants to supplement the costs and it is possible that students will pay tuition, but that decision hasn’t yet been made.
Jordan stressed that the planning and fundraising would be done in “true collaborative” style with BOCES grant partners: Southern Westchester and Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES, the North Rockland school district as lead fiscal agency, Rockland Community College, Westchester Community College and SUNY IT. Private partners include Avon, Fairway Testing, All Bright Electric, Hightech Security Systems and Wick Arborists.
The local participating school districts are also partners and their students could stand to benefit.
In a June interview, just as Rockland BOCES was finalizing its grant application, Superintendent Mary Jean Marsico told me administrators hope the money can support districts like East Ramapo by maintaining some programs through P-TECH that have been lost to district-level budget cuts.
East Ramapo has struggled through round after round of cuts and has carried back-to-back multimillion-dollar deficits the last two years. The deteriorating conditions of the schools and the loss of many sports, arts, music and advanced programs has prompted some parents to move their children to private schools or out of the district altogether.
As the only “focus district” in Rockland, East Ramapo had to sign on to the BOCES project to make it eligible for the grant, Marsico said.
East Ramapo administrators, for their part, seem cautiously optimistic that a tech school could become an alternative for students who may have limited academic opportunities now.
“We’re excited to be a part of this opportunity but what it would mean for our students has not been defined,” said Andrea Coddett, the assistant superintendent for K-12 curriculum and instruction, and the district representative on the P-TECH steering committee. “We certainly are hoping that it would be good news for us.”
For a full list of winners, including three others in the Hudson Valley, read the full awards announcement here.