Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies Set to Open
Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen recalled a principal telling her that a student was in tears over a transcript or some information blocking an opportunity to attend the district’s new Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies.
“She did not want to miss the chance to be part of that program (MPACT),” Allen said. “I’m thinking they are getting serious. This gives them an opportunity to get serious about their futures, and I’m delighted that we can do that.”
Students are serious about MPACT, and the business community is serious about MPACT because that’s where their future employees will come from.
Although that’s just an anecdote and a small, very small way to gauge student interest in MPACT, what about 380 applicants for the program? Or about 200 students not graduating wanting to remain in the program? There were 249 students in the program in the spring.
The goal now is 500 students for the fall semester, which begins in August at the new facility at One Center. That’s double the enrollment in one semester. MPACT Principal Marsha Baugh, for one, was not surprised at the surging number of applicants. “I think they (students) just weren’t aware of the opportunities that were here for them. I could tell that we were going to have a large number of applicants. I don’t know that I ever could have anticipated 380.”
She credits the students, who are the program’s best recruiters. “This has just been a blessing for so many of them and they go back to their zoned schools and tell everybody,” Baugh said.
That enthusiasm may filter down to the elementary school students, who will learn “there are so many opportunities out there for them,” Allen said. It has already gone up the ladder. “I’m excited about the interest that our students across the system have for MPACT,” Allen said. “They (students) took their tours out to MPACT and quite a number of them just fell in love.”
Remember this was all before MPACT opened. “I feel like when we are in this new building and students come and tour and see what we have and what we can offer, I think it will make a huge difference,” Baugh said.
It’s no doubt a game-changer for the school district and community. “It’s just great for motivation,” Allen said about students working “alongside of individuals who are in the profession already.”
There is plenty of room to expand at MPACT, as 100,000 square feet of the building is not being used. Students will attend either a morning or afternoon session at MPACT and take their core classes – other than math – at their zoned schools.
“We could easily accommodate 600 students,” Baugh said. “We are looking at some options for having a third shift of students.” Students will spend 2 hours and 45 minutes at MPACT.
Excitement has been so widespread that even instructors have been swept up in the wave. During student interviews with instructors there was competition for a student, Baugh recalled. “I could tell that the electrical teacher wanted him (student) and the welding teacher also wanted the same student to be in their program,” she said. Baugh saw the welding teacher pull out a paystub from a friend who is a welder and showed that to the student. “ ‘If you can make this somewhere else, let me know, and I’ll let you out of this program and you can go do something else.’ ” The teachers “want the best of the best,” Baugh said.
When students walk inside the doors to MPACT they will find “a workplace environment,” which was the top priority, according to Baugh. “We want those students to walk in and feel like they’re at their job. Students will basically clock in and clock out just like they have a job. They will be assigned roles and responsibilities.
“Each major will have a company name. They will have jobs within that company. They will have employee manuals. They will develop their own name; develop their own logo.”
The school will follow the Alabama Simulated Workplace manual, Baugh said.
She said that if medical science students want lab coats the advertising/design students will create a logo for the lab coat. “We’re going to work together in a lot of ways.”
You hear over and over again the importance of opportunities for students to succeed. “For some of these kids, this is the best part of their day,” Baugh said. “This is what is giving them an opportunity to make money on their own; to work their way up – to own their own business.”
They also learn skills that can be very useful. One student saved his family money when the heater stopped working over the Christmas break, Baugh said. The student’s mother was going to call a repair person, but the student said he wanted to look at it. He repaired it.
When the electrical sockets in Baugh’s kitchen stopped working, the electrical teacher went to Baugh’s house with two students. They figured out the problem and repaired it – the teacher did the work, but there was plenty of instruction going on. “It was amazing,” Baugh said. “How great is that?”
The semester will start with 10 majors/programs: medical science, electrical, building science, welding, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, advertising/design, industrial systems (advanced manufacturing), information technology, fire science and public safety.
“There are jobs that are probably going to come for students that we’re not even aware of yet,” Allen said. “This is our chance to follow the direction of technology – the direction of all sorts of businesses that are developing and coming into fruition as we talk.
“We can grow and become more accessible to what businesses choose to offer here in Montgomery. We will keep our eyes on what is happening in the country and try to make those same kind of responses that will connect children to futures.”0
Brand, Spanking New
Instructors design lab space for facility
By David Zaslawsky
It really is not fair to compare the school district’s aging and cramped Montgomery Technical Education Center to the new and spacious Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies.
Yet, Montgomery Public Schools is scheduled to open the MPACT doors in August, closing the chapter on MTEC. First, MTEC was housed at the former McIntyre Middle School. It was converted into a technical education center.
Meanwhile, MPACT is in the converted JC Penney building at the old Montgomery Mall, which is now called One Center. It will use only 65,000 square feet of the massive building, leaving lots and lots of room to grow. That leaves close to two-thirds of the building not in use.
Second is the location. Students in the career technical education spend part of their day at their zoned school and part of the day at the technical school. It’s easy to get students in and out of a former mall and is definitely more convenient for students attending Park Crossing High School in East Montgomery. It is not easy to get them to MTEC on time in the morning.
At MTEC, the district transformed traditional classrooms into labs as best it could. “You can’t fit that many students into those lab spaces once you put equipment in there,” said MTEC Principal Marsha Baugh, who in August becomes MPACT principal. “For safety reasons we are unable to use a lot of the equipment that we would like to.” She said that some of the equipment was too heavy for a second-floor room. Another issue was hardwood floors are not conducive to a welding lab so that program was held in a trailer and that limited the number of students to 10 at a time.
There were six programs/majors at MTEC. There will be 10 at MPACT, including two new ones – medical science and industrial systems, which is advanced manufacturing. Not only are there more programs/majors, but the space was designed for labs. There will be two traditional math classrooms. Students will take their other core classes at their zoned school.
Every MPACT instructor designed their own lab space after conducting research and visiting other technical education facilities. “They are the experts in their field,” Baugh said. “They know how it works best.”
They weren’t the only ones doing their homework. Baugh and other district officials worked closely with project managers, architects and also traveled to other technical education centers. There was even a trip to Ohio. “We’ve been to lots of places to see what works and what doesn’t work,” Baugh said. “That was very, very helpful in planning for the new facility.”
The new facility features bay doors so equipment on rollers can be taken outside – covered outdoor space. Majors were grouped together – building science, welding and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The electrical lab is right above those three and a freight lift enables supplies to be lowered. Those four majors will be working together in a team design-and-build competition. The project is a small house with specific dimensions; door and two windows; wiring; light fixture; and ventilation.
Building science students will now have more space for their other projects, including garden containers and benches with trellises for Pintlala Elementary.
Majors with heavy equipment are located on the first floor and majors such as advertising/design and information technology are located upstairs.0
Businesses Form partnerships with school tech program
By David Zaslawsky
Edwards Plumbing & Heating Owner Chuck Edwards talked to a group of students in Montgomery Public Schools technical education program.
His message was real simple: He had employees at retirement age, but nobody to replace them. Edwards may find some replacements, as he established a two-week rotation for three students. Now the school district is trying to incorporate a plumbing component into what are called majors at the new Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies (MPACT) at One Center. The school already has a partnership with Dixie Electric, Plumbing & Air.
There are existing partnerships with the Montgomery Police Department and the City’s Fire/Rescue Department, which both have stations at One Center. The district also works closely with the Montgomery Sheriff’s Department. Students in the public safety major attend almost weekly events, including a mock crime scene investigation by the city’s crime scene unit.
One student has already passed the Fire College exam and the physical test. As soon as the student graduates and turns 18 he will become a firefighter. Another fire science student has passed the first portion of the Fire College exam and the physical test.
MPACT Principal Marsha Baugh has been talking to Information Transport Solutions about a partnership. Trane Area Service Manager Todd Clark has talked to students in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) major.
Alabama Power has worked with MPACT to set up a pilot program for future utility line workers and Baugh expects there will be other pilot programs at MPACT, which was scheduled to open in August.
Mike Jordan, area manager for Alabama Power’s Southern Division, was the first guest speaker in a First Fridays program operated by the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, which included tours, mock interviews and guest speakers the first Friday of the month.
Perhaps one of the key partnerships is with Alabama Industrial Development Training, which is part of the Alabama Commerce Department and will have a home at MPACT. That home, which is the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center, gives students a chance to use AIDT resources and equipment during school hours. AIDT can access MPACT equipment after school.
The partnership between the school district and H. Councill Trenholm State Community College is likely to be enhanced – MPACT is located across the bypass from Trenholm.
“The impact of Trenholm and AIDT reflects on the idea of necessary resources being very close to where we need them to be,” said Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen. “Having that close proximity is definitely a plus.”
A boost to the dual enrollment program is likely with Trenholm so close, and now being a state community college after receiving accreditation. Students in dual enrollment attend high school and take community college courses at the same time and may graduate with both a high school degree and associate arts degree, or need to take a few more courses for their AA degree.
Allen hopes that partnerships with MPACT expand to other aspects of the district. “It would be awesome if more businesses want to be partners with Montgomery Public Schools,” she said.
Local businesses have turned to students in the technical education program for help. Even other schools have sought help, including building stairs to a stage.
“The partnerships that have come moving from a career tech center and this new building has opened up so many opportunities for our current students,” Baugh said. “I can only anticipate a tremendous amount (of more partnerships) once we’re able to get in here and have the proper equipment.”