Late last semester, Tullahoma City Schools received exciting news as it learned that its grant application for the Innovative School Models Funding was approved.
“What better time to celebrate this than in February, which is also National Career Technical Education (CTE) Month,” said TCS Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens. “We are so grateful and excited to have these funds as we look forward to providing our students with more work-based learning opportunities. This grant will allow TCS students to have more hands-on experience and be college and career ready once they graduate high school.”
In total, TCS received $2 million from the four-year grant, which can be utilized now. Tullahoma High School is the recipient of $1 million from the Innovative School Models Funding, while East and West were each allotted $500,000.
“The most exciting aspect of Innovative School Models Funding is that all of our sixth through 12th-grade students will now have an innovative reimagined learning experience,” said TCS Career Technical Education Director Jessie Kinsey. “The goal of Innovative School Models is to increase the number of students who are 21st-century workforce ready. This funding will allow our middle school students to enhance their career exploration efforts and increase college and career readiness at the high school level.”
With those goals in mind, each school has a plan for utilizing funds. Tullahoma High School has started purchasing innovative, industry-standard equipment in all offered CTE programs of study.
Additionally, there will be increased opportunities for early postsecondary opportunities as the school library will be redesigned to include the College and Career Readiness Center. This center will allow students to print resumes, complete college and scholarship applications, course assignments and more. The space will additionally include a student-run coffee shop.
THS will also utilize this money to fully fund the work-based learning coordinator, as Angela Welch has taken over that position. In her role, Welch is instrumental in creating opportunities for students to increase their meaningful work-based learning experiences.
The high school also plans to purchase two eight-passenger SUVs to transport students to work-based learning sites or local colleges for dual enrollment courses not offered online or at THS. These vehicles will help eliminate the transportation barrier for students and be used to pull the TCS Mobile Coffee Shop, a work-based learning site for students.
“These vehicles will create tremendous opportunities for THS students, especially in CTE, and is a game changer,” Kinsey said. “Often, we have a small number of students that need transportation to a school competition or event, and taking a large school bus for a small number of students is not the most economical choice. Our CTE teachers will be the primary drivers of the newly purchased vehicles as they transport students to CTE programming opportunities and events.”
East and West Middle schools will use their funds to hire a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teacher at each campus. This grant will fully fund these positions; additionally, each school plans to purchase innovative STEM equipment. These supplies will include industry-specific equipment similar to what students will use in high school CTE courses, including welding and aviation simulators. Additionally, both schools plan to utilize the funds to allow students to go on college and industry tours, giving them first-hand perspectives on future careers.
West Middle School will additionally use funds to construct an outdoor STEM classroom. The school also plans to have a greenhouse for students as well.
“An outdoor STEM classroom and greenhouse will provide unique, challenging and innovative experiences in all things STEM related for our students,” said West Middle School Principal Cindy Herrera. “The outdoor STEM area will lead some students in a direction they may never have imagined, and these STEM activities will turn into hands-on activities. Hobby gardening has become a popular pastime in the Tullahoma community, and agricultural careers are plentiful in the surrounding areas, so having a greenhouse on the grounds is a tremendous asset to our students.”