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New Polytechnic department: Q&A Brad Sever and Chard Reid

Brad Sever, CHS assistant principal

Could you briefly describe what the new polytechnic department is?

Essentially, we’re not adding any new departments; what we’re doing is we are combining departments. So, the communications department, the art department, the family consumer science department, the business department and the engineering and technology department are now combined to form one overarching department called the polytechnic department. Although we’re just combining the departments, there will be new classes like, for example, we’re also adding criminal justice next year, and that will be the first time those courses will be offered. So students that are interested in criminal justice–anything from being a lawyer to being a law officer–will have the opportunity to take this class. The new criminal justice class will also fall underneath the polytechnic umbrella and we’re definitely excited to add this opportunity next year. 


Will there be construction at this school for the new combined department?

We are in the conversation of looking to redo some of our culinary arts classrooms, as well as our automotive and construction trades. The date of the construction has not been officially decided yet.


Why did CHS decide to create the polytechnic department?

It’s more of an alignment that a lot of colleges and universities are going with the idea of polytechnic and the idea of hands-on experiences and authentic learning experiences. 

CHS assistant principal Brad Sever looks at courses within the polytechnic department. Sever said the polytechnic department is a combination of existing departments that provide students with more opportunities. (Helena Wang)

How will the newly combined department bring opportunities for students and teachers?

Right now, we have 22 career pathways here at CHS. A pathway is a sequence of courses a student can take that are related to a specific profession or field. We have…a pathway that is construction trades, where students will take Principles of Construction and then on up through a sequence of courses that would either lead to a third course or a fourth course that would be an option of a capstone course. It’s in the capstone course where students would have the opportunity to potentially have experience in the field, like an internship or a work-based learning experience. So, that’s kind of what the polytechnic program provides; it’s an opportunity for us to take a look at those departments and determine how those departments and those courses are related to a specific career or profession.

Additionally, I think, certainly, some students who are at CHS know exactly what they want to do and they have a clear vision of what they want to do and they know what they’re really passionate about and interested in. So, that’s great and they might know exactly what pathway they want to take or the work-based learning experience they want to have. But we also have some students who maybe think that they know what they want to do, but when they get into that, they realize, ‘Oh, this isn’t what I wanted to do.’ Either way, this is a win. We don’t expect high school students to decide what career path they want to take. Some might, which is great, but through these opportunities, it’s a win for them if they find out what they don’t want to do. That way, when they leave CHS, they have a better understanding of themselves and maybe they won’t have to run into a scenario where they have to change their college major several times. We want to provide them with these opportunities to get to know themselves better and determine the experiences and careers they might want to pursue and those they might not want to pursue. 


Anything else that I haven’t asked about that you would like to add?

I would add that in the polytechnic department, we offer 19 dual-credit classes across those five departments that are becoming the polytechnic. And in those dual-credit courses, we have partnerships with Indiana University for some courses, Ball State University for some courses, Ivy Tech Community College for some courses, Vincennes University for our accounting course and Butler (University) for an education course. So, we are continuing to grow some of these opportunities and partnerships not only with colleges and universities, but, like I said before, in some of these work-based learning experiences. Chard Reid, who just began his position last fall, is our work-based learning coordinator. This is the first time we’ve ever had a work-based learning coordinator, so he’s actually in the process of developing work-based learning partnerships and relationships with local professionals, businesses and organizations. As I mentioned before, that provides students with opportunities to actually get out and have work-based learning opportunities. This semester, some students have already started some work-based learning internships. And then, we’re just going to grow it every semester.


Chard Reid, work-based learning coordinator

What is work-based learning?

With work-based learning, it’s basically going into the community and applying what you’ve been learning throughout a career pathway. So we have a few students doing it right now. We have a total of 15 students in a work-based learning experience. But, we have three kids who are specifically piloting what we’re doing next year with the career pathways. First, we have senior Clare Ehnes, who is at the city of Carmel and she is a marketing intern with the economic development branch or department. She’s doing all of the Saturday events; she’s helping plan those, and promote those on social media all semester long. We also have senior Jasmine Klopstad who is at Heartland Food Groups; she’s involved in a project for Splenda where they make all the Splenda products. And then we have senior Cole Vreeman and he is working at Reynolds Auto Diesel Rentals. He’s completed the automotive pathway and he’s getting the opportunity to put what he’s learned in his auto classes into practice at work. 


Why is work-based learning important for students?

Work-based learning is an opportunity to extend what you’re learning in a hands-on setting in an actual workplace in the community. So it could be at a business or a non-profit, and it could even be in a governmental setting, like the city of Carmel. What it is is that it’s going into a meaningful and authentic work placement that’s actually an extension of what you’ve been learning. So it’s an opportunity to work in a more hands-on setting instead of being in a classroom and doing all the things we typically think of for classroom learning. 

This is a fantastic opportunity for students because, first off, you have a mentor who’s in the industry. You have an expert who’s in the industry and has taken you under their wing and has agreed to have a training plan with you and ensure you have experiences at work that help you learn and help get you ready for your career or college studies. That’s a huge benefit. Another benefit is that students are building a network that they are going to use someday to find their place in life. If you think about how you get jobs as an adult, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And having a work-based learning experience and having a mentor who is going to be working with you every day and can speak to your hard work and ability can someday, be a huge asset for students. 


Watch this video to learn more about CHS Polytechnic. Click this link to learn more about work-based learning at this school. 


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