Written on . Posted in District News


2015-06 School and Business Partnerships in Chilton

First published on 14 May 2015 Posted in District News

By Mr. Ty Breitlow, High School Principal

In Chilton, a renewed sense of urgency for opportunities in and around the greater Chilton area has the faculty and administration excited to explore multiple avenues for school and business partnerships. Over the past few years, Chilton High School (CHS) has invited local business members to a Vocational Arts Open House to discuss the skills, knowledge and disposition that their businesses are seeking, and how we can best prepare our students to be productive and successful future employees. The discussions provided tremendous feedback, and CHS communicated that feedback to students. At this time, a new vision for the Vocational Arts Department and, a renewed commitment to equally beneficial partnerships has emerged. Changes to the CHS Vocational Arts department include Matt Kiel, who teaches courses like Engineering, Design and Drafting, Autos and Metals; Ethan Fritz, who teaches Carpentry and Construction courses, and Amy Thielman, the Agricultural Arts teacher and School-to-Work Coordinator, who has assumed the Department Chair position while our new members assimilate into our professional and community culture.

With the new leadership and administrative support, CHS decided to create a School-Business Partnership Committee consisting of the CHS administration, CHS faculty and any members of our local businesses that would be willing and able to be involved. CHS invited local businesses to the school in the fall of 2014 for another open house, and it was well attended by: American Finishing, DVO, Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC), JTD Enterprises, TD Services, Worthington Cylinders, and Vande Hey Brantmeier. Topics that were discussed were how to best prepare students for our local businesses, how to create work experience opportunities for CHS students, what equipment our students should be proficient with, and how CHS can procure the needed resources. At the conclusion of the meeting, the next steps to sustain the momentum of the open house were determined to provide students' access to the business setting, and to form a standing committee that would have ongoing discussion for continuous improvement. Since that time, CHS students have been visiting those businesses, gaining perspective and interest and a Partnership Committee meeting is planned for late May. We have also continued to align our high school offerings in partnership with FVTC to allow advanced credit opportunities for students while at CHS. A partnership of this sort will facilitate students continuing their education in any technical trade beyond CHS.

Simultaneously, Mrs. Thielman and the administration have been meeting with the Calumet Medical Center (CMC) administration to expand work experience opportunities for students interested in careers in healthcare. Healthcare occupations, many of which require an associate's degree or less, make up 8 of the 20 fastest growing occupations. CHS students can attain their Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) license in high school through our articulated credit with Fox Valley Technical College, which is a springboard to any healthcare occupation. CMC has committed to growing qualified professionals from within the local area so the school-business partnership is a natural fit.

As our society continues to support students furthering their education beyond high school, CHS has focused on students and their ability to be positive contributors to the workplace. Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers has directed schools to have all students graduate "College and Career Ready." CHS has embraced this initiative. At our fall Vocational Arts Open House, two important themes for student understanding were discussed. First, students in the current generation have limited understanding of what careers in manufacturing, and other technical industries, really involve. The stereotype of dirty, dangerous shops needs to be replaced with the reality of highly technical, computerized machines that need to be calibrated for parts to one-hundred thousandths of an inch. To that end, CHS will continue to build partnerships with businesses for full understanding of the limitless opportunities in those careers. The second theme local businesses identified was employability skills such as punctuality, follow-though, and the ability to take direction. CHS has embraced this feedback and made it part of our Vocational Arts expectations. Utilizing employability skills, such as the aforementioned, will serve students and business alike, which is the ultimate goal of any partnership.

School and Business partnership programs can encompass a wide variety of activities. They may involve staff development, curriculum development, policy development, instructional development, guidance, mentoring, tutoring, incentives and awards, or they may provide material and financial resources. Though the types of partnership activities can vary widely, the common goal of virtually all school-business partnerships is to improve the educational experience. A partnership can be defined as a mutually supportive relationship between a business and a school, or school district, in which the partners commit themselves to specific goals and activities intended to benefit students and schools (Showers, 2010). In most cases, partnering is a win-win situation for all involved parties. In addition to improving the educational experience, the business partners frequently will realize benefits as well, such as enhanced goodwill, a stronger presence in the community, and an extended interview process with the possibility of career-long employees. One critical element to keep in mind is that school-business relationships can have a powerful impact on the community. Community members and parents can play a role in the development process, since the entire community ultimately benefits from a successful partnership. Recognizing that schools are typically a focal point of every community, community leaders should be engaged and supportive of partnerships that improve the educational experience. By focusing decisions about partnership activities at the local level, we can ensure maximum involvement and success.

The Chilton Public School mission statement states, "We, the Chilton Public School District, believe that preparing students to achieve their potential is our highest priority. In partnership, with all members of our community, we are committed to inspiring our students to be life-long learners and responsible, contributing members in a global society." The statement clearly shows the fundamental role that school-community partnerships have in preparing our students for the future.

Currently, CHS has identified a dozen businesses in the area that have committed to partnering with the school for student-work opportunities and support. We continue to work with and grow our programs for everyone's benefit. With that said, CHS would like to invite any business that may be willing to create a partnership with the school to reach out and contact us to begin dialogue. All ideas are worth a conversation. I encourage any business or community member to reach out to me at breitlowt@chilton.k12.wi.us, or call the high school office at 920.849.2358, if you have any interest in forming a partnership, or for any questions or feedback you may have. Thank you for your interest in the Chilton Public Schools; it is appreciated.