By Tia Lynn Lecorchick managing editor
Plans to bring a College and Career Academy to Morgan County in 2017 are underway with new Superintendent James Woodard currently applying for grants to make this longtime dream for the community a reality. “This initiative seeks to insure that our students receive a head start in the many career opportunities available in Morgan and surrounding counties,’ said Woodard. “We want to prepare a world class workforce by giving our students the education, skills, and preparation that careers of the 21st century demand.” The Morgan County Charter School System hosted a College and Career Academy Stakeholders Luncheon, sponsored by the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at the First United Methodist Church in Madison. About 95 people from the community attended. The luncheon aimed to involve valued community leaders in the process of bringing a college and career academy to Morgan County. “If everything goes according to plan, we should be up and running sometime in 2017,” said Sarah Burbach, assistant superintendent. Woodard believes a career academy is best suited to cultivate the kind of workforce, one with specialized and technology-based skill sets, so desperately needed into today’s competitive industries. “The career academy model has emerged over the last 20 years as one of the most promising approaches to structuring and focusing students’ high school education, while creating a smoother transition into college and careers,” said Woodard. According to Woodard, a college and career academy will prepare students for the 21st century job market, produce career and college-ready graduates, enhance students’ employability and soft skill instruction, and connect students to career pathways earlier in school. Such an academy would afford students the benefit of specialized curriculums, apprenticeship opportunities, and dual credit opportunities. The next steps in bringing a college and career academy to Morgan County include touring other local career academies, building vital community partnerships, and submitting the Georgia Career Academy Grant Application in January 2015. The School System will also work to develop programs of tailored to the needs of local business and industry. Woodard implored the all the community leaders present at the luncheon participate in this effort. “Your expertise and experience is essential in determining the direction and depth of the academy as well as having input into facility changes or design. Our vision, mission, and goals for the academy will be developed by you, the stakeholders. This region is rich in possibilities for careers for our young people in agriculture/agribusiness, marketing and tourism, natural resources, healthcare, manufacturing and bio sciences. These careers require strong connections to science, technology, engineering and math,” explained Woodard. Community leaders in attendance included Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, Chairman of the Morgan County Board Commissioners (BOC) Andy Ainslie, BOC members Ellen Warren, Philip Clack, Donald Harris, and Ron Milton, as well as Bob Hughes, president of the Madison Morgan Chamber of Commerce, Dave Belton, House of Representatives candidate, Madison city council members, and other leading business and industry leaders. The luncheon also featured keynote speakers from other nearby college and career academies to share the success stories of such institutions and the value they bring to communities.