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Westinghouse Academy’s technical education held up as model for others

Pittsburgh school officials hope to make Westinghouse Academy’s technical education programs a model for other districts across the country.

That’s why they took John King, who will succeed Arne Duncan as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education next year, on a tour of the high school’s carpentry workshop and cosmetology salon Monday before sitting down to a lunch prepared by the school’s culinary students.

King joined Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane, other educators and students for a roundtable discussion about the importance of community support for career and technical education programs. They talked about a 17-year-old Westinghouse carpentry student who already is certified through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and works for the City of Pittsburgh Forestry Division, as well as the city’s recent donation of a fire engine to the school’s Emergency Response Technology program.

“They’re not doing this everywhere,” said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

She said the union invited King to the school this week to celebrate the strides the district has made in the past year growing its technical education programs. In June, the American Federation of Teachers gave Pittsburgh and three other cities funds to invest in career and technical education as part of its Promising Pathways initiative.

Not every district receives the same kind of support that Pittsburgh’s technical education programs receive, Peduto said. Westinghouse is an example of how those community partnerships can help students thrive.

“They’re doing more than just teaching vocations,” he said.

Community support for such programs can help provide students with mentors, internship opportunities, scholarships and jobs after they finish school, King said. Showing students what opportunities are available to them after they graduate also helps encourage them to work hard to graduate. The Pittsburgh district sets a good example for others across the country, he said.

“For students, seeing the pathway from the classroom into the workforce so clearly is a very powerful incentive,” King said.

Elizabeth Behrman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7886.


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