WOOD RIVER JCT. — After meeting Monday with Chariho Tech students and talking with instructors and administrators, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said he was impressed by what he had seen at the facility. Magaziner was given a personal tour of Chariho Tech by Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci, Assistant Superintendent Jane Daly and Director Gerald Auth.
“I’ve had the opportunity to visit career and tech [programs] in some other school districts and this is by far the most expansive program I’ve seen, both in terms of the number of programs that are offered and also the percentage of students that are engaged,” Magaziner said.
Chariho Tech is facing increasing competition from other school districts which have, in recent years, begun offering their own career and technical programs, and the district is responding by promoting its brand as a regional center with superior programs and instructors. Ricci, who arranged the visit and tour, said he had wanted to show the treasurer the ways in which Chariho Tech distinguishes itself from other schools’ career and technical programs.
“As a member of the School Building Task Force [in 2010], I was very impressed by the leadership displayed by General Treasurer Magaziner, who co-chaired the task force,” Ricci said. “One of the topics discussed during those meetings was career and technical education. I want General Treasurer Magaziner to personally experience, through observation and conversations with our students, the high quality and rigorous programs offered in a regional center.”
The visit began with short videos explaining four of the programs: culinary arts, electrical, marine trades and construction. Auth drew Magaziner’s attention to Shea Jackson, the student featured in the construction program video.
“He’s the poster child for career and tech education because he’s in the construction program, but he’s also in AP [advanced placement] physics and all honors courses,” he said.
The group stopped first to meet some culinary students and instructor Sara Reilly, and then continued to the electrical classroom and marine trades, where students were learning how to read nautical charts.
In another room, senior Dylan Jarrett stood beside a small boat he had been restoring.
“As you can see right here, it’s not really sanded down,” he told the visitors. “I need to get this nice and even. But this entire railing is rotted on the inside because it was made of rope, so I’m going around and filling in all the cracks so it’s waterproof again.”
Looking on was marine trades instructor Jacob Guilbert.
“It’s a great opportunity to have them get to come into the marine technology building,” he said. “I’ve got tons of students that are interested in marine trades, forming pathways and learning whether it’s a hobby or might possibly lead to a trade. It’s nice to have them so excited to have the treasurer here.”
In the construction classroom, the guests donned safety glasses and walked over to have a look at the project the students were working on.
“I’m a student of this program, of this school,” instructor Dave Bannister told the treasurer. “I went to school here, came back, and this is my 26th year teaching.”
More than half of Chariho’s 1,100 students are taking career and technical programs in addition to their regular courses. Magaziner said he found the full integration of the high school curriculum with four-year career and technical programs was particularly noteworthy.
“I’m especially impressed at how they’ve built a schedule that allows students to do career and tech but also take honors classes, advanced placement, etcetera, if that’s what they want to do,” he said. “So the four-year schedule is really something that’s eye-opening to me and one that I’d like to see other districts adopt.”
Auth said he had enjoyed showing Magaziner around the facility.
“It’s always nice to highlight the great things we do and these opportunities give us a chance to do that,” he said. “He’s been to a couple of different schools, but we wanted to show him that there’s a difference between a career and tech program at a comprehensive high school and some of the things that we can do here.”