New Jersey Legislators Examine Academy Approach to Learning at Mates
Jean Sullivian, March 25, 2009
MANAHAWKIN, NEW JERSEY- Members of the New Jersey Legislature’s Subcommittee on Innovative Programs & Charter Schools, part of the Joint Committee on Public Schools gathered this week at the Ocean County Vocational Technical School’s Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) to hold their monthly public meeting. MATES is just one stop on the subcommittee’s schedule to visit a variety of high school learning environments throughout New Jersey. Their goal is to gather information about educational concepts, curriculum and environmental factors which can become part of an overall model for educational reform. The objective of this meeting was to learn more about the academy approach to secondary learning.
Attending yesterday’s meeting were committee members: Senator Diane Allen (R), District 7; Senator Ronald Rice (D), District 28; Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R), District 13; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D), District 27; Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D), District 38; and Assemblyman David Wolfe (R), District 10. Although not a committee member, local District 9 Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R) was in attendance. Escorted by six MATES seniors, the legislators toured the MATES facility, observing students in laboratory and classroom settings. The students also provided information about the development of the program and the state-of-the art MATES facility.
After enjoying lunch prepared by OCVTS Culinary Arts students, the legislators called their meeting to order.
The meeting began with opening remarks from each of the Senators and Assembly Representatives. “We are visiting schools to see what is going on; what are the best practices and what we should be advocating” as part of high school reform, commented Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, (D), District 27 . OCVTS Superintendent William P. Hoey, Jr. presented a brief history of the school and the development of the district’s two full-time high school academies. Mr. Hoey explained that by integrating the career theme into every subject area students remain involved in all classes and tend to perform better overall.
Attention then focused on a panel of academy students. MATES senior Samantha Cash; senior Lorenzo Villanueva from OCVTS Performing Arts Academy (PAA); Maria Briscione, a senior at the Academy of Allied Health and Sciences, part of the Monmouth County Vocational School District (MCVSD); and senior Sara Carlson, from High Technology High School, also part of the MCVSD, were invited to present their reasons for choosing a non-traditional high school setting, the impact their decisions have had on their education and their goals for the future. The legislative panel then queried the students about specific aspects of their schools.
A second panel of invited guests included educators from the students’ academies. John Wnek, Supervisor/Instructor at MATES; William Quist, History Teacher at the Performing Arts Academy; Laura Sargent, Allied Health Teacher from the MCVSD Academy of Allied Health and Science; Robert Dennis, Teacher of Technology from High Technology High School, MCVSD; Karen Homiek, Principal of the Performing Arts Academy; Dr. Nancy Gerry, Ocean County College; and Alison Carroll, Principal of MATES. The educators spoke of their experiences in the academy environment and provided further insight into the career-themed approach to education. They related the importance of partnerships with colleges and community involvement as an integral part of the education process.
The Subcommittee members will compile information from this meeting as well as the other scheduled visitations and present their findings to the Joint Committee on Public Schools
In April, the Subcommittee will hold a meeting at Essex County Vocational Technical School, in Newark, where they will take an in-depth look at another model of career and technical education.
Caption: Academy students Samantha Cash, of Lacey; Lorenzo Villanueva, of Point Pleasant; Sara Carlson, of Belmar; and Maria Briscione, of Oceanport, address the NJ Legislative Subcommittee on Innovative Programs and Charter Schools.