Automotive teacher Jim Gore, in the blue shirt, talks to students in his class, held in the RRPS transportation center, in January. Some of the students were eyeing certification after completing requirements this summer; that didn’t happen, thanks to COVID-19.
Gary Herron / Observer

The popularity of career-technical education in Rio Rancho Public Schools is not to be disputed: More than 6,000 students in grades 6-12 took at least one CTE class in the 2019-20 school year.

With 17,500 or so students in the entire district, that amounts to more than a third of all students.

In the coming school year — again with a lot of questions about traditional classroom learning — the CTE curriculum adoption team arrived at four goals in its series of meetings:

  • Increase student awareness of CTE career opportunities;
  • Expand the offerings of high-value CTE pathways that align with secondary, post-secondary and workplace learning;
  • Increase the percentage of students completing three or more sequenced CTE courses, leading to certifications and careers; and
  • Cultivate partnerships with businesses, higher education and community organizations to create systematic job-shadowing, internships and apprenticeships.

The outline for the courses and where they’d be held, plus a request to purchase high-quality instructional materials, came before the school board Monday. Also in the board packet was an indication that in a survey of 2,068 parents, comments were all positive.

Here is the basic plan for career-tech education classes to be offered by RRPS, starting in the coming school year:

There will be three middle-school CTE programs offered: culinary arts (all four middle schools); robotics (all four middle schools and Cyber Academy); and computer technology (Eagle Ridge, Rio Rancho and Mountain View middle schools).

Six CTE courses will be offered at Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools: film, video and audio; theater tech; DECA; computer science; teacher prep (Educators Rising); and robotics.

Bio-med science, engineering, criminal justice/law enforcement and culinary arts will be offered exclusively at RRHS; ag science/FFA and computer applications will only be offered at Cleveland High.

The curriculum process will take four steps:

  • Sharing materials in the first quarter;
  • Making sure CTE teachers are equipped with knowledge of the materials and process;
  • Reviewing the CTE curriculum adoption budget after meeting with teachers to get their input and considerations; and
  • Finalizing the curriculum request, developing yearly purchasing scenarios — and possible budget cuts.

The cost for the CTE for the first six years is pegged at almost $152,000, with the district eyeing $21,000 in Perkins Grant funds to purchase the remaining curriculum.

The board approved the request to buy materials, 5-0. That’s really not enough money, said Benton Spradlin, the CTE program coordinator.

“We just couldn’t spend all the money we wanted to,” he said.

Superintendent Sue Cleveland added, “(The) amount of money we have to start the program is ridiculous … such a small amount to do anything worthwhile in the first place.”

But, Cleveland added, “If we don’t support the programs, even if they’re not ideal, we’re going to lose these kids (with that interest). … but it sure is better than nothing.”

Some board members were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus via hands-on learning. Although some instruction is done online, “This isn’t the typical way you’d learn how to change oil,” Spradlin quipped.