The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District is preparing to launch academic houses in the hopes of better preparing its high school students for career paths of their choosing.
SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant, both at Monday’s Starkville Rotary Club meeting and the same day’s school board meeting, spoke about the district’s goals with the academic houses. They’ll launch in the fall for the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
The district has three houses: Technology, Engineering, Construction (TEC); Health and Human Services (H2S); and Communication, Arts and Business (CAB).
“We plan to create a high school where all of our students feel supported and prepared for a successful future,” Peasant said.
At the school board meeting, Peasant said the houses are focused on exposing students to skills they will need for careers within the houses. For example, he said, courses within the health and human services house will offer classes that prepare students for careers in health sciences, sports medicine, law, public safety, agriculture and biomedical fields. Meanwhile, classes in the TEC will be geared more toward careers in construction, computer science, advanced manufacturing, aerospace/unmanned aviation and engineering.
Peasant and Starkville High School Principal Sean McDonnall noted that though the houses will offer different focuses to help prepare students for various career paths, they will all meet the same standards the Mississippi Department of Education requires for earning a high school diploma.
The new academic houses will work in conjunction with a “freshman focus” course the district introduced this year. In that class, Peasant said, students are introduced to 16 career clusters that contain all of the various avenues for work.
“They are exposed to those and learn extensively about those career clusters and what’s contained in them,” he said. “That prepares them for going into their 10th-grade year, to be educated as they decide what pathway that they’re going to take — which academic house they’re interested in.”
Students won’t be locked permanently into an academic house once they select one. Peasant said the district is still determining whether students will be able to change houses in between semesters or academic years, but the option will be available.
“We will allow that because that experience is important,” he said. “There will be some students who think they want to go into health sciences and then realize they don’t like seeing blood and they need to change.”
SOCSD is also looking at ways to engage more with the community as it launches the houses. Peasant said the effort should be a “whole community endeavor” as the district looks to prepare students as fully as possible for life after high school — whether that’s going on to college or straight into a career field.
That may involve bringing in community members to be guest speakers, or working with local businesses to secure job shadowing or internship opportunities for students. He said it is important for the district to offer those experiences.
“Our students are leaving our high school eligible to get into college, or eligible to get into positions somewhere, but they’re not really ready because they haven’t had those experiences,” he said. “Those students who are going into college classrooms, if they haven’t had relevant experiences like we’re looking to offer here, they’re going to go and sit in classrooms with students who have and they’re going to be behind. Those students are going to have the edge on them.”
Trussell talks athletics
SOCSD Athletic Director Cheyenne Trussell also spoke to Rotarians on Monday, providing an overview of the district’s athletic programs. The district has more than 600 student-athletes who play on 47 teams across 27 sports.
Trussell said the high school boy’s soccer team defeated Madison Central, which was ranked No. 1 nationally at the time, on Friday.
“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” he said. “We went out and beat the number one team in the state and number one team in the nation.”
He also spoke about maintaining a positive tone and spirit of excellence in the athletic department.
“The tone of the athletic department starts with me,” he said. “I’m kind of old-fashioned and I was always told if you’ve got kids out of place, you’ve got adults out of place.”
The district is also eyeing upgrades to the video board at the high school football stadium. Trussell said he’d like to see an upgrade to a Jumbotron similar to the one at Brandon High School. He said there are also talks to have a two-sided one that could serve both the football and baseball stadiums, which are adjacent.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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