OPHS among 10 Californian schools to win award for CTE program

Amerikaner: ‘CTE allows exploration’


Amanda Lurey/Talon

In Advanced 3-D Design, students apply 3-D design principles to projects they work on in class. The class encourages individual expression for each student.

According to Applied Educational Systems, 95 percent of Career Technical Education (CTE) students graduate high school — 10 percent higher than the national average. In nearly every state across America, graduation rates are higher among students who choose to take CTE courses than they are in the general student body.On March 8, the CTE program at Oak Park High School won an Exemplary Program award by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

The high school’s CTE program, formerly known as Vocation Education, used to only include classes such as Woodshop, Home Economics and basic office occupations. Now, classes include Digital Photography, Architecture, Theater Arts and more.

The five different CTE pathways are Software and Systems Development, Engineering and Design, Architectural Design, Production and Managerial Arts and Design and Visual and Media Arts.

Faculty who teach classes under the program include Design, Visual and Media Arts teacher Tony Peluce, Theater Production and Managerial Arts teacher Allan Hunt, Architectural Design and Woodshop teacher Allan Prescott, Engineering and Design teacher Ken Jones and Software and Systems, Robotics, Web Design, Programming and Computer Science teacher Erik Amerikaner.

“The OPHS program expanded five years ago when we received major state grants to update our equipment and curriculum. This permitted OPHS to assist our faculty that has been at OPHS for many years,” Amerikaner wrote to the Talon.

According to Jones, the CTE program’s first classes were already in place before he began working at the school and before there was the amount of funding it has today. It began in computer-based applications such as Microsoft Office and other programs.

CTE then began to be a topic of interest to the state of California, in terms of high schools. Jones said it soon became a performance indicator for schools, allowing for more funding opportunities. When this occurred, OPHS decided to further move in that direction and explore the five different pathways of CTE.

OPHS is currently in the third phase of receiving grant funding from the state for CTE. OPHS, along with other schools and community colleges in the area, formed a consortium. The consortium is then given grant money by a body in called Ventura County Innovates (VC Innovates), which applies for and distributes the grants.

Amanda Lurey/Talon
A student in Art I/II uses watercolors to test our different brush strokes.

“We’ve gotten some extra money for the Mechatronics program because I wrote it for Ventura County Innovates,” Jones said. “So, I wrote the curriculum and it can then be used in other schools in other places.”

With more money, the school was able to further develop its CTE program, adding classes such as Mechatronics, which is currently in its first year at OPHS. In Mechatronics, the top-level Engineering class at Oak Park, students work to research an issue and then design and test a solution for it.

“Some of the electronics programs that we do, I’ve heard, are done at UCLA with electrical engineering. They’re doing some of the things we do in digital electronics classes as UCLA juniors, while we do it with mainly sophomores [in digital electronics classes] here. They learn some really good stuff,” Jones said.

Seniors Philip James and Nolan Cass, working together in the Mechatronics class, shared their feelings on the CTE program.

“It’s one of the best programs in the school,” James said. “It’s my fourth year in [CTE].”

According to Amerikaner, the goal of the CTE department is to “offer multiple pathways for students to explore career choices.” Many elective courses at OPHS have the CTE designation and help students prepare for job opportunities under arts, media, entertainment and design.

“High school students may not have a decided on a career pathway. CTE allows exploration, which begins in middle school, to guide students to what they want to pursue or not pursue in their education and future careers,” Amerikaner wrote.

Thurmond awarded 22 California Distinguished middle schools and high schools additional honors in the fields of Arts Education, Career Technical Education or Physical Activity and Nutrition. OPHS was among the 10 that received honors for a CTE program.

To win the award, Jones, Amerikaner and Prescott wrote an application on behalf of the school based on what they felt was an exemplary program at OPHS, which was CTE. Based on the rubric, they self-assessed the program and then sent the finished product to Principal Kevin Buchanan to look over.

CTE classes at Oak Park are electives under one or more of the five categories previously mentioned. Students can show that they have taken CTE courses in high school on a job application, since many can count as job experience.

“Say you went right into a job during or instead of college. You could say that you took these classes and put them on your résumé. You basically have experience using [any of these skills],” Peluce said.

Hailing from the design industry and still freelancing in it, Peluce hopes to “bring as much real-world experience into the classroom as possible.”

“I think kids don’t know about it because everyone is so focused on getting into the best possible college, which you can, too, with CTE classes. In my classes you can get Fine Arts credits, but also job experience,” Peluce said.

The main philosophy behind Peluce’s program is that “you don’t have to be a starving artist. You can make a living as an artist too.”

“Basically everything that kids learn in a CTE class could be applied to a job,” Peluce said. “Here I teach the ‘Adobe suite’: Photoshop, Illustrator, Animate. Students could potentially get an entry-level job at a design firm with that knowledge.”

Between 2012 and 2022, there will be over 50 million job openings for CTE graduates, according to Applied Educational Systems. Additionally, 82 percent of CTE students say they’re satisfied with career opportunities.

“Remember, most careers that will be available for today’s students do not exist yet,” Amerikaner wrote. “Think about Facebook, Google, driverless vehicles, robotics, AI companies and careers that did not exist 5-10 years ago.”