By Bill McEwen
Mike Betts has pretty much seen it all when it comes to Fresno and to business. He is chairman of the board and CEO of Betts Spring Manufacturing, which has been around for a while — 149 years to be exact.
When he speaks, people listen.
So when Betts says that Friday morning’s groundbreaking on the $7.5 million Career Technical Education Charter School in southeast Fresno was “seismic,” you best believe it.
“This school will be the pipeline for us and everyone in manufacturing and construction It’s a dream come true for the entire community,” Betts said.
“A student can enter in ninth grade and four years later graduate with a two-year college degree. They will be ready to go to work or to pursue an engineering degree.”
CTEC is ‘Holy Grail’ of Education
Jeff Sands of the California Charter Schools Association said that the school’s dual approach is “the Holy Grail” — something offered by no other county Office of Education in California.
CTEC, as it’s called, is the result of a relentless push by Jim Yovino, the superintendent of Fresno County Schools.
He first pitched the idea of chartering a school that combined technical training, college prep courses and community college credits five years ago. The reaction from many: Fantastic idea, but you’ll never pull it off. There are too many hurdles in the way.
“My staff looked at me like I was crazy five years ago, four years ago and three years ago,” Yovino said. “Then two years ago, I said we’ve got to get it done. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.”
Meyers Family Gift Puts School Over Top
Former Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell counseled Yovino on how to navigate some of the obstacles, and the business sector stepped up with support and technical advice. Excitement for the school started spreading, and then Marvin and Tish Meyers got involved. They made a substantial donation that will take the school over the finish line to an August 2018 opening.
“This is an opportunity for kids to learn, get hands-on experience and get a trade,” said Marvin Meyers, an almond farmer whose family has generously given to education at every level. “When Jim (Yovino) told me about what he was trying to do, I had to support it.”
For me, the most exciting thing about CTEC is seeing the close collaboration between education and the business sector. Business leaders will serve on the school’s board and provide invaluable input to the curriculum. That curriculum won’t stagnate, either. The mandate is to keep pace with new technologies, techniques and the business community’s needs.
But as Yovino reminded a crowd of about 200 at the Kermit Koontz Education Complex on Mariposa Street, the school is really about meeting the needs of Fresno youth.
“This school will support our kids and our community,” Yovina said. “It will prepare them to make good choices after high school.”
Principal, Teachers Already Hired
Well ahead of the groundbreaking, Yovino hired a principal, John Delano, and several teachers. They have much work to do before the start of the 2018 school year. Delano comes with extensive CTE experience at Sanger High School, which formed a partnership with The Wonderful Company.
“The opportunity to start something from scratch and to work with multiple industries” was appealing, Delano said.
I asked him if the school would have any difficulty filling its 125 freshman slots.
“No,” he said. “Families will come flying into our office.”
Who Can Enroll?
Character building and soft skills are part of the curriculum, and there are community-service requirements. Students living in Fresno County and bordering counties are eligible to enroll. Questions? Additional information is available at this link.
As for Yovino, I’ve never seen him as excited as he was Friday.
“I felt like a little kid when I when to bed last night,” he said, sounding like a wide-eyed youngster on Christmas Eve.
Spotting two Chevron representatives in the crowd, he tilted up on his front toes and said, “We’re going to have 500 doers coming out of this school.”