By Ingrid Burke
With the funds provided by two back-to-back grant awards, Plumas Charter School is expanding its career technical education program. This year’s progress is laying the groundwork for additional developments in the 2021-22 school year.
In March 2020, PCS was awarded the first of two CTE grants by the K12 Strong Workforce Program, administered by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, in partnership with the California Department of Education. These funds were specifically earmarked to support CTE pathway coordination, teacher credentialing, and the purchase of needed supplies.
This year, PCS teachers and staff have been working diligently to meet these goals, while also applying for the second CTE grant. Taletha Washburn, PCS executive director, recently announced that the school has been awarded the second round of funding, which starts this summer. The second grant will cover additional coordination work, development of an early engagement program for seventh- and eighth-grade students in partnership with Feather River College, and a new CTE position at the charter school.
The goal of CTE programs is to encourage students to explore and prepare for career options by strengthening the connections between high school, community college/vocational school, and the workforce. Emphasizing local industry allows students to learn about careers they can pursue within their region.
To this end, CTE opportunities are divided into pathways, or areas of study. Students choose a pathway of interest and then build skills and knowledge through relevant classes, counseling, local experiential learning, and internships in that field. At PCS, classes can be taken in person with a CTE instructor, online, or through FRC.
This year, PCS has selected coordinators to develop seven pathways at PCS, focusing on the areas of agriculture, art and music, food service, forestry and natural resources, health science, and outdoor recreation. Two additional pathways, in public service and software systems and development, do not yet have coordinators assigned.
In addition to attaining their credentials (see below), the new coordinators have been preparing for their positions, which enable them to become the “expert and mentor” for students in their pathway, said Washburn. Coordinators mentor students and help them identify classes to take. As the program develops, coordinators will also help arrange internships and partnerships with local industry.
“We currently partner heavily with FRC,” said Washburn. “All of our CTE pathways align with FRC programs or classes,” making it easy for students to complete coursework through concurrent enrollment and continue their education after high school. Pathway coordinators monitor this alignment, ensuring that opportunities are current.
Coordinators will also teach classes in their pathways. This year, classes in ecology, natural resources, and outdoor recreation leadership are available in person at PCS, fulfilling requirements in the Forestry and Natural Resources pathway and the Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism pathway. The school plans to expand in-person offerings next year.
Five PCS teachers have now received their preliminary CTE teaching credentials, and one teacher is in the credentialing process. Unlike traditional teaching credentials, CTE credentials are based on experience rather than education.
“The majority of our CTE teachers have degrees in their field,” said Washburn, “but, more importantly, they have significant experience in their field.”
Rebecca Glaspy has received her credential in Arts, Media, and Entertainment, and she will coordinate the Design, Visual, and Media Arts pathway. She has a bachelor’s degree in art, and creates and sells her own work, especially in embroidery. She also teaches art as an enrichment instructor for PCS.
Courtney Gomola has received two CTE credentials: Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation. She teaches classes focused on forestry, natural resources, and outdoor recreation leadership for PCS and spearheads the school’s outdoor education program. She will coordinate the school’s Forestry and Natural Resources pathway, and a Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism pathway focused on outdoor recreation leadership. She holds a master’s degree in ecology.
Denisse Marquez is credentialed in Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation, coordinating the Food Service and Hospitality pathway. She has extensive experience working in the local food service industry, and she started working as an instructional aide this year with PCS’s Quincy Learning Center.
Leslie Pace is in the process of obtaining two CTE credentials: Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism. She will lead the Agriscience pathway. Pace holds a master’s degree in natural resources, and she is also the cofounder of the Lost Sierra Food Project, a local nonprofit dedicated to food access and agriculture education. She also teaches gardening classes as an enrichment instructor for PCS.
Danielle Plocki is credentialed in Health Science and Medical Technology; she will coordinate the Patient Care pathway. Plocki is an actively practicing registered nurse, and she is also PCS’s credentialed school nurse.
Greg Willis, who teaches music as an enrichment instructor for PCS, is credentialed in Arts, Media, and Entertainment. He will coordinate the Performing Arts pathway. Willis holds a bachelor’s degree in music/composition, performs with local musical groups, and operates a private music instruction studio in Quincy.
Pathway coordination work will continue next year, funded by the school’s second grant award. The award will also fund a new position at PCS: the CTE counselor. This person will be responsible for advising students as they enter pathways, providing academic counseling, assisting students in setting postsecondary goals, and making sure students meet pathway requirements. The counselor will also track pathway utilization across the entire school and streamline the experience for students.
The second grant also expands CTE opportunities for seventh- and eighth-graders, said Washburn. Emphasis will be on early college and career exposure and early pathway exposure, specifically in partnership with FRC. These opportunities will create early connections between students and the pathway-related degree/credential programs at the college.
“It’s always good to get the interest going, to know what your options are going to be in high school,” said Washburn. “The earlier their interest is tickled the better.”
The workforce is constantly changing, as are expectations for college. The earlier students understand their options, the better prepared they will be to find success, said Washburn.
PCS operates learning centers in Quincy, Greenville, Taylorsville, and Chester. To learn more, visit plumascharterschool.org
Ingrid Burke is the public relations specialist for Plumas Charter School.
CTE pathways at PCS
In the Agriculture and Natural Resources industry area:
- Forestry and Natural Resources
In the Arts, Media, and Entertainment industry area:
- Design, Visual, and Media Arts
- Performing Arts
In the Health Science and Medical Technology industry area:
- Patient Care
In the Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation industry area:
- Food Service and Hospitality
- Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation (with outdoor recreation leadership focus)
In the Information and Communication Technologies industry area:
- Software and Systems Development
In the Public Service industry area:
- Public Service