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STC chief likes Effingham's chances for career academy
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Effingham County’s chances of landing a career academy may be getting better, school officials found out Thursday night.

The board of education approved the application for a career academy charter, which will result in a partnership with Savannah Technical College in operating the school. The state is expected to grant five career academy charters.

“This is new ground for us, going with a charter school,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “I believe it’s going to help our community. We have so many people who want this to happen. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

There were 60 to 70 school districts that took the career academy proposal seriously, but only about 12 to 15 followed through with an application, STC President Dr. Bix Rathburn said. Effingham is the only district in the area STC serves that applied.

“I have a real good feeling what’s going to happen with your proposal,” he said. “You need to applaud your staff.”

As part of the application, school officials approved the administrative setup for the career academy. The board of education and the STC board of directors will select the Effingham Career Academy’s board of directors.

Shearouse will nominate a chief executive officer for the ECA, who will then be up for school board approval. The CEO will report to the ECA’s board of directors. The Effingham Board of Education will have final authority over the career academy’s board.

The school board also will select a business and community coordinator and a director of the high school programs.

“He’s more like a principal,” said Evonne Mobley, school system director of career, technical and agricultural director. 

STC will select a director of the ECA’s college operations. There will be an ECA faculty chosen and a technical college faculty.

The proposed budget for the ECA takes into account the initial staff needed and construction costs, but not operations and maintenance. Based on 225 students, the expected program budget is $6.8 million, with $3 million coming from the career academy grant. School system and special local option sales tax proceeds will account for nearly $3.2 million. Construction costs are projected to be $6 million.

“We don’t know how many students will go,” Mobley said. “It may be more than projected.”

The career academy, based on the successful model set by the Central Education Center in Newnan, will take students at Effingham’s two high schools and give them a seamless transition to Savannah Technical College.

According to the school system’s petition for the career academy, recent needs assessments and labor and economic development data showed a need for the schools to expand the number of students prepared to enter the workforce in many of the Coastal Empire’s fast-growing job sectors — health care, aerospace, the ports, warehousing, logistics, transportation, manufacturing and construction.

Currently, the high schools have a certified nursing assistant program in conjunction with STC. There’s also a public safety program and a cosmetology program.

The career academy would include such areas as manufacturing and construction. Mobley said they looked at the needs of the economy in the area to figure out what they needed to offer.

“We’re going to offer the programs that hopefully our students can get jobs in,” Shearouse said. “That’s the key. A student can go there and get something in return.”

Rathburn said the state is expected to decide on its grants for charter career academies by Nov. 15.

“If we are fortunate to be chosen, what a huge benefit it would be,” BoE Chairwoman Vera Jones said.

ECA Board of Directors
2 parents from ECHS — Chosen by Board of Education

2 parents from SEHS — Chosen by Board of Education

Chamber of Commerce executive director

General business representative — Chosen by Chamber of Commerce board

Health care representative — Chosen by Hospital Authority

High tech representative — Chosen by Georgia Tech, Savannah campus director

Secondary faculty representative — Chosen by secondary schools' faculty

Post-secondary faculty representative — Recommended by Savannah Tech faculty

CTAE coordinator

STC vice president of academic affairs

Effingham school superintendent

ECA chief executive officer