Burke County Public Schools constantly seeks to keep curriculum and programs relevant to the needs and interests of students, aligned with the skills business and industry desire, and a step ahead of the latest demands of technology.
To achieve this, district leaders are always looking for the “next new,” a term coined by Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam, which is an innovative discipline to introduce to students.
On the horizon for Burke County Public Schools students is the exploration of drones. Students at the STEAM Academy already have had some exposure to drones, but Putnam said he has challenged curriculum leaders to take that study further.
“We want to explore the role of drones in aviation, communication, surveying, delivery and aspects that could potentially be innovative,” Putnam said.
To stay innovative and zero in on opportunities for students, BCPS is not shy about learning from others and exploring new programs. Putnam and Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca recently toured the Guilford Technical Community College Aviation campus and Mechatronics Engineering Technology Center.
Other recent examples include tours for directors, principals, counselors and students of local business and industry, the Western Piedmont Community College Mechatronics Building, Catawba Valley Community College’s Workforce Solutions Complex and the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies.
“Each time we go on a tour, visit a site or explore a program it sparks ideas on how we can take the innovative practices we see back to Burke County Public Schools and make an impact on our local economy,” Putnam said. “It is exciting to see what others are doing and how they are being innovative.”
“We enjoy the challenge of incorporating a new process into our curriculum and making it relevant to us,” Fonseca said. “Our focus has been on educating teachers, counselors and administrators on in-demand job opportunities and fields of study so they can in turn educate our students and help steer them toward challenging and rewarding careers.”
To better understand the needs of industry and the community, Burke County Public Schools works closely with many partners — the greatest collaborative partner being WPCC. Western Piedmont houses the STEAM Academy, welcomes our students for Career and College Promise (CCP) courses, sends instructors to our schools to teach CCP courses and hosts the mechatronics cohort, now in its second year.
Another educational partner is the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM). The partnership started in 2013 with the opening of the STEAM Academy, where students take virtual NCSSM courses in advanced studies such as aerospace engineering, forensic science and physics. The partnership has continued through the process of bringing the NCSSM western campus to Morganton. Putnam said he looks forward to future opportunities to collaborate with NCSSM once the school opens.
Other collaborators in our quest to prepare students for the future include economic development partners, including Burke Development Inc. and Work in Burke, local governments, the Burke County Chamber of Commerce, the Division of Employment Security, Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge and other business and industry leaders on career-readiness and workforce development opportunities.
“To maintain our level as a high performing school system and best support students and parents, we must continue to look for the most innovative trends in education and go after them,” Putnam said. “We have an upcoming tour scheduled in February to visit Marves Industries in Hildebran.”
BCPS is taking advantage of several upcoming opportunities to explore new programs and connect with others in the region. These include attending a STEM West expo at Isothermal Community College on advancing STEM education in western North Carolina; working with Catawba and Alexander counties as part of a Belk Endowment grant on Aligning Education Efforts; and learning about Golden Leaf grant opportunities in the Northwest Prosperity Zone to support workforce development and help drive the economy.