At Monday night’s Patterson Unified School District board meeting, high school Principal David Stubbs presented an educational pathway that, if implemented, could be one of the first of its kind in Northern California.
Proponents say it would anticipate a growing industrial need in Patterson for logistics, distribution and office workers in places like Keystone Pacific Business Park and future industrial developments such as West Park.
The pathway would be designed so a student with a specific career goal could plan classes to get as much training as possible during high school, readying him or her for vocational school, college or a job right after graduation.
Essentially, someone who took courses like transportation systems, logistics and business computer applications — all tentatively part of the pathway’s curriculum — would be on the way to the training that industries on the West Side want in their workforce.
The ultimate goal for the pathway, Stubbs said, is certification.
A committee of local industry leaders could help the school devise a set of courses matched to the kinds of work local industry needs. Stubbs added that he wants to do an internship at one of the area’s distribution plants to gain intimate knowledge of what’s involved.
“I don’t want to talk about what I think it is,” he said. “I want to talk about what it really is.”
Stubbs and assistant principals Diane Harris and Arturo Lomeli, along with district administrators, will have more research to do if the board gives the go-ahead. That would mean collaborating with Modesto Junior College, which has shown interest in developing extensive career training in the same vein, as well as teacher training, surveys of local businesses and a visit to Banning High School in Southern California. That school, near the Port of Los Angeles, has shown success with similar pathways in developing job skills needed at the port. Home ec might have to go
Though the school has received a two-year, $40,000 grant from the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, Stubb’s presentation Monday night also proposed a way — at least for the next two years — for the district to not have to spend any more money on the plan. That’s where home economics comes into play.
Home economics is a department of its own, with one part-time teacher — April Weaver — and three classes per day. Stubbs proposed that the part-time position, plus the Alliance grant money and other money the district already has, could be parlayed into one full-time teacher for the pathway, or a full schedule of classes daily.
Wheeler, however, said that would leave a big hole in Patterson High’s curriculum.
“By eliminating home economics in the schools, you are eliminating all the careers in eight different fields and three business and industry sectors,” she said.
Home economics courses teach “skills for life,” according to the course curriculum guide, such as personal finance management, sewing, nutrition, child development and communication skills. The idea, Weaver said, is to train students to be better workers in careers involving child care, retail, food service and fashion design, among others.
Board members discussed the implications of taking away the class — and department — in favor of a pathway focused on training students for an industry that, according to Alliance Senior Manager of Education Keith Griffith, employs one-sixth of the workers in Stanislaus County.
To Superintendent Patrick Sweeney, it’s a matter of keeping what the schools teach relevant and practical.
“In this climate, we can’t do things that are nice to do,” he said. “We have to do what will serve the most number of students for the 21st century.”
The board will hear an update on possible alternatives at its next meeting, April 12. Meanwhile, Weaver plans do what she can to educate people about why home economics is still relevant today.
• Maddy Houk contributed to this report.