Questions persist about Richmond Technical Center courses | Richmond Free Press


The debate and search for answers about the suppressed professional classes at the Richmond Tech Center raged for a second week on “The Gary Flowers Show” on WREJ-990 AM.

The half-hour question-and-answer segment included Richmond Schools Principal Jason Kamras; Harris Wheeler, a longtime horticultural professional who previously worked for the City of Richmond and taught at the Tech Center; and a caller identified only as “Ann,” who said she retired as an educator at the Tech Center.

The radio show revisited Richmond Public Schools’ cancellation of brick masonry and small engine repair classes at the Tech Center, as well as single-digit enrollment of students in the centre’s horticulture classes. .

The lingering questions were very simple: Why are the professional RPS courses being reduced or eliminated? What can the community of Richmond do to help re-establish the artisans’ courses needed to help students become productive members of the Richmond workforce? Is there still a need for artisans in the workforce?

Appellant Ms. Ann noted that RPS students are not introduced to vocational training programs, although many students are not interested in going to college and want to work in the city.

Mr Wheeler, who said he was introduced to vocational education as an RPS student, suggested that blue-collar and white-collar workers in Richmond should come together and understand how they can complement technical education in the district.

Mr Kamras said he is committed to forming a community group of educators, middle and high school counselors, business leaders and parents, to provide input as he and RPS reflect on Tech Center course offerings.

The overarching goal, he said, will be to expose students to vocational and technical education, as well as to examine the present and future needs of industry, government and students.

Mr. Kamras has pledged to involve RPS engagement manager Shadae Thomas Harris to support what the community group sees as critical needs for RPS students. Those findings, he said, will be submitted to the Richmond school board.

Mr Flowers added that local nonprofits and community organizations provide job skills development and need a link with RPS and the Richmond business sector.

“Businesses need to invest more in technical education as the district tackles skills shortages,” said Flowers.

In an interview after the show, school board vice president Jonathan Young, 4th district, said technical and vocational education had not been a major focus because the board takes very little time to discuss. of this program.

“However, that should change now that Mayor Levar Stoney has allocated funds in his capital budget for a project for the Altria building on the South Side,” said Mr. Young. “If the municipal council approves the mayor’s budget, technical and vocational education will become a priority for the school board.

In March 2019, Dr. Kamras and Dr. Paula P. Pando, President of Reynolds Community College, announced that they were teaming up to create a new technical education center in a 288,000 former US smokeless tobacco factory. square footage at 2325 Maury St. in South Side which was donated by Altria to the RPS Foundation. Once rehabilitated and equipped, the center should provide RPS students with technical and professional skills to meet the needs of the

21st century, officials said at the time. Dr. Pando then spoke of students in technical positions who receive salaries of $ 50,000 to $ 60,000 without earning an associate’s degree. She said automotive technicians, a high-tech field requiring a number of certifications and significant training, have a starting salary of around $ 48,000.

In a text on Wednesday, Kamras wrote that the mayor’s office had mentioned $ 70 million for a complete renovation of the South Side building.

According to the mayor’s March 5 capital spending message to city council, RPS currently has $ 7.3 million to plan for new schools. The mayor’s budget plan includes $ 200 million in fiscal year 2023-24 to replace George Wythe High School and develop the new South Side Tech Center.

“This project is designed to fill the skills shortage, as well as to allow some to earn college credit,” said Young.

He said the funding proposed by the mayor would allow for the renovation of the building and meet many of the city’s professional and commercial workforce needs.


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