A visit here Tuesday from Georgia Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox will be the first such visit from the state’s top school administrator in almost eight years, local officials say.

In addition to visiting with pre-schoolers in the “Little Bloomers” summer pilot program, Cox is scheduled to unveil the state’s new Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program.

“The state is taking what used to be known as vocational education into the 21st century,” said Jean Lowrey, executive director of the Dalton Education Foundation. “The new curriculum is trying to help students see how education ties into their chosen careers. It involves more technology and plans to educate students moving to a higher level, including college-bound students.”

Larry Winter of the Dalton/Whitfield Education Revolution Alliance (ERA), a part of the Target Tomorrow community visioning agency, is one of the organizers of the “Little Bloomers” initiative. He was recently appointed the 10th District member of the State Board of Education.

“One aspect of the superintendent’s visit includes seeing what our community is doing for underprepared kindergartners,” Winter said. “She will observe our pilot program that’s dealing with an issue that’s not uncommon across the state.”

Winter said this district was chosen as the site for the CTAE rollout because of the Whitfield County Career Academy, a charter school opened last year that offers an unconventional mix of career technical and conventional course work.

“This program (CTAE) will be a radical change for what used to be called ‘VoTech’ education in the state. Statewide, VoTech was once used to ‘hold a kid in school’ to keep him from dropping out, and VoTech teachers didn’t have a defined curriculum,” Winter said. “Today’s issue is we need to be teaching real kids for real jobs. In this area alone, we need 400 students to fill good jobs every year. We need that many in our pipeline every year with backgrounds in subjects like electromechanics and fiber optics.”

Winter said the program Cox is unveiling will take effect in the 2007-08 school year and will be tailored to fit the industrial and business needs of different areas of the state.

“What is unique is that this curriculum takes into account meetings with local industry to ensure the curriculum is graduating students equipped for the jobs locally available,” Winter said.

“To me, this is really good news. Building the Career Academy has been controversial from time to time, but this is what it was built for, and I understand the county school board is delighted this new structure (CTAE) is available.”

The Superintendent’s Schedule

• Pleasant Grove Elementary, 10:15 to 11:30 a.m.

• Lunch with Dalton Noon Rotary Club at the Dalton Golf and Country Club, noon to 1 p.m.

• Whitfield County Career Academy, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

• The public is encouraged to attend the address at the Career Academy, located near the intersection of the North Bypass and Chatsworth Highway at 2300 Maddox Chapel Road. For more information, call the school at (706) 876-3600.

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