September 28, 2017
By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
MURFREESBORO — Rutherford County Schools and Oakland High School have become a popular destination for out-of-state leaders to witness Career and Technical Education courses in action.
For the second time in as many weeks, a group of out-of-state education leaders and guests came to Oakland High School to marvel at the Career and Technical Education offerings and mechatronics program.
The school district and the school were one of the first in Tennessee to launch a mechatronics program only a handful of years ago. The program is a joint effort between the school district, school, local manufacturers — such as Bridgestone — and higher education institutions including Motlow State Community College and Middle Tennessee State University.
Sixteen education leaders from six states toured the Career and Technical Education facilities at Oakland High School on Tuesday, Sept. 26. The group spoke to teachers and students in the school’s mechatronics, health sciences and automotive repair programs.
“They’re here to learn about the work we’re doing in CTE and the reforms of CTE over the past years,” said Casey Haughner Wrenn of the latest group of educators to visit Rutherford County Schools. Wrenn is the assistant commissioner for Career and Technical Education with the Tennessee Department of Education.
The recent visitors came from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Nevada, Indiana, North Carolina and Mississippi.
These types of visits have become common for Oakland and the school district, which has gained a reputation as one of the best in Tennessee and beyond for CTE. A similar group of visitors came to the school two weeks ago — this time from South Carolina — and a group from Hawaii toured the school last year.
“They said this is the best program in the country,” said Mark Williams, a site location consultant who visited with representatives from Greenwood County, South Carolina. “These people are looking at it to get something similar in their county.”
CTE courses — what many may remember as vocational courses such as shop class or home economics — have grown tremendously over the past two decades in Rutherford County. The reason for the growth is those types of classes offer students hands-on experience with career “pathways,” which help them to gain excitement about education and their potential careers.
Each high school in Rutherford County now offers a variety of CTE pathways for students, ranging from cosmetology, pre-dental, logistics, information technology, engineering and agri-business.
“We really align with our Chamber of Commerce. If you really want your CTE program to take off, you’ve got to align with businesses,” Director of Schools Don Odom told the visitors Tuesday.
Jeri Radford, a 2015 graduate of Oakland High School who is now attending MTSU’s mechatronics program, also told the group about her experience while in high school and now college.
“I can go into any direction with mechatronics,” Radford said, explaining she currently has five offers for internships with various manufacturers around the country.
“It really has helped me coming out of high school and having that certification,” she said about the Siemens level I certification that students can earn before graduating.
Oakland Mechatronics teacher Lenny Ciletti added: “(Jeri) is just one example of where this program is going and the opportunities it has for students.”
PHOTO / JAMES EVANS
Oakland mechatronics students demonstrate the robotic machinery station to several out-of-state visitors who toured the school Sept. 26. The school and the district have become a popular destination from education leaders wanting to emulate Rutherford County School’s career and technical education program.