Foundation seeks MISD board’s intent on CTE hub

By Phil Major
Posted 4/1/21

Whether Mineola will play host to a regional hub for career and technology education (CTE), a concept that gained momentum in 2019 but has been on the back burner since, returned to the spotlight …

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Foundation seeks MISD board’s intent on CTE hub


Whether Mineola will play host to a regional hub for career and technology education (CTE), a concept that gained momentum in 2019 but has been on the back burner since, returned to the spotlight again last week.

The Mineola Foundation, one of the organizations solidly behind the concept, used the opportunity of its annual meeting Friday to invite school district officials to answer whether Mineola ISD is still on board with the idea.

Waymon Ragsdale asked MISD Superintendent Cody Mize to find out if the school board backs the program.

”We’re further behind than what we were when we started,” Ragsdale said. “We’re exactly today where we were three years ago.”

Assistant Superintendent David Sauer said MISD’s CTE programs are growing every year, and three more teachers in CTE subject areas are planned next year.

“I know you’re working hard on that. I’m not questioning that,” Ragsdale said. But the question is whether the MISD board wants a regional hub or not.

If not, he said, the foundation needs to move in another direction.

Mark Parkerson, who works with CTE at the Region Seven Education Service Center, is a former Mineola ISD assistant superintendent who did much of the work on the regional hub for Mineola prior to leaving the district in 2019.

He said the 103 school districts in the region graduate about 12,000 students every year. Of those 47% enroll in college but only 17% graduate, less than 1,000.

More than 10,000 kids are being dumped into the labor market with no formal training, he said, other than about 2,200 who have gained an industry-based certification through a CTE program.

The rest don’t have a (career) starting point, he said, and that’s a problem for the school districts.

He gave several examples of ways area schools are moving into career training, from flight simulators to a print shop. One district grows its own vegetables for the cafeteria with hydroponics.

The state education agency is involved, Parkerson said, because it recognizes there is a skilled labor shortage.

That was echoed later by Adam Steck of Southwest Metal Systems, who said he has spoken with clients who tell him the same thing. They need skilled labor.

Parkerson said there will be a lot of money coming through the Texas Education Agency for CTE programs, equipment and facilities, even pushing into the middle schools for summer programs.

The Texas Workforce Commission is also on board with grants.

Parkerson said he has visited about 60 schools in the region and almost every one has realigned programs to offer CTE.

Even if the student doesn’t immediately use that certification, it’s something to fall back on following a job loss.

Parkerson added that they are looking at the top growth jobs in East Texas to target programs:  health care, education and construction/manufacturing.

The Mineola Economic Development Corp. has pledged $500,000 to the regional hub, and City Manager Mercy Rushing said it will be good for the city.

“MEDC is passionate about it,” she said.

MEDC Chairman Gordon Tiner added, “We are putting our money where our mouth is.”

Mize said the problem is complex. He pointed to the two failed bond issues in 2017 that would have built a new high school and CTE facilities.

“We’re stuck in a little bit of a situation,” he said. “What’s the next step?”

Part of the issue was the cost of the bond, that would have raised taxes by 50 cents, to $1.67, among the highest in the region.

A more palatable figure would be 30 to 35 cents, but “what can you get?” he asked.

Scheduling for a regional hub would be a “complex monster,” he said, as well as which other districts would be willing to partner, and send how many students. Busing to an offsite facility would be another challenge.

The district has made upgrades to current facilities, which prompted Ragsdale to say that district patrons are unhappy about the district building facilities without coming to the voters.

Board member Jay McGough said he has heard no complaints about the latest project, to expand band and fine arts facilities.

McGough noted that Mize is working on a long-range facility master plan.

Steck cautioned against losing the CTE opportunity, which he described as a two to three year window, while working on solving problems 20 to 30 years out.

Foundation chairman Warren Brown said the workforce commission is also interested in the facility to offer adult education.

He said many other schools are busing students to CTE centers.

Mineola has let the momentum slip, he said, and “COVID threw us a curve ball.”

The facility should be built on district property on NE Loop 564, to leave room for expansion, he said, as well as to be visible, unlike the facilities located behind the high school. He pointed to a program in Missouri that has changed the lives of some extended family members.

“We are failing our kids by not giving them every opportunity,” he said.

“We want to be a partner and develop a well thought out plan,” Mize said, “to get the best bang for the buck.”

Brown concluded, “It would be helpful if the school board, unanimously and with enthusiasm, wants this regional hub.”

“You have an entire community of business owners willing to get behind this,” Steck said.