Q&A: Principal Tim Phares on polytechnic courses, new pathways to graduation

Archit Kalra and Chenyao Liu

Chenyao Liu

What are polytechnic, or Career Technical Education (CTE), courses?

You’re gonna hear the term polytechnic, Career Technical Education. All those things have to do with when the state changed graduation standards (several years ago). Now, there’s pathways and those pathway courses are like when you see students walking around in scrubs, our CNA students. We have automotive here, we have construction here, we have culinary here, we have our educational professions here…When you hear polytechnic—polytechnic’s the word that encompasses all of the Career Technical Education—it’s kind of an interchangeable term. 

What will polytechnic and CTE courses look like in the future?

It’s well-known here in Hamilton County that we have had students in the past that have gone to the J Everett Light center, and there is going to be a separation. Hamilton County is creating their own, and it’s called Pursuit Institute. That’s coming up and when I say coming up, it’s going to be a lot more conversations about how we’re ensuring our kids are getting what they need and their courses and their placements and things like that…We are making a change in our program of studies, where we’re going to use polytechnic as a, let’s just call it a chapter or a heading. Students can see all the courses that fit under that. Now, it doesn’t mean that’s how you’re going to graduate. 

How will polytechnic courses factor into diploma requirements?

We will have kids—and I won’t know those numbers for the next couple of years down the road—but we will have students that will use this as a way to complete graduation requirements…We won’t know, because, let’s say a student isn’t able to meet the academic diploma requirement, but they can meet graduation requirements by fulfilling the CTE, the career pathways. We don’t know how that will all shake out because there are different things. That’s the big change with the state graduation requirements…we don’t know how many will actually graduate under this area, no matter what. We believe this is a great opportunity for our students in general, whether you’re graduating that way or you’re graduating with academic honors. We believe kids have interest in these areas and they want to explore them, and it’s a great opportunity before you go pay a lot of money in college. 

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

A lot of (the polytechnic classes) have already been ongoing. That’s one thing we talk about, is what’s the best way to be able to promote and advertise these courses? Sometimes we get so hung up on “I gotta take this, I gotta take this, I gotta I be AP,” all these different things and yet we don’t look to our electives, to say “How might I explore an elective?” From that perspective, we need to do a better job of advertising it, making sure our kids are aware that these options are out there. If you’re a high school student and you’ve never been to the automotive area or the construction area, go check it out. It’s crazy what we have here within these walls that we offer as opportunities for our kids.