Proposed FBISD Bond isn’t specific about Career/Tech

By Michael Sudhalter
msudhalter@fortbendnews.com

Fort Bend ISD has $59.4 million allocated to Career & Technical improvements – approximately one-sixth of its proposed $484 million bond that will be presented before voters on Nov. 4.

The district hasn’t decided whether to construct a new Career & Technical facility or to boost current facilities, but the $59.4 million is listed within the construction portion the bond.

“The ($59.4 million) is a placeholder to address the needs of the students and the community to comply with House Bill 5,” said FBISD chief operating officer Max Cleaver said. “We were uncomfortable putting that off to Phase 2.”

Career/Technical Education in FBISD encompasses a wide variety of studies including Health/Science, Business/Finance, Marketing Education, Agricultural/Natural Resources, Architecture/Construction, Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Welding, Engineering, Education Training, Automotive, Information Technology, Culinary and Firefighting.

House Bill 5 is a bipartisan comprehensive educational reform bill that the state legislature passed last year.

Among other things, HB5 emphasizes the importance of Career/Technical Education. The bill states that all students must have a personal graduation plan that promotes college and workforce readiness. HB5 also allows districts to partner with community colleges and industry in providing technical training and real world work experience.

In order for FBISD to be able to offer industry certification in certain Career/Tech areas, some district Career/Tech programs must be enhanced.

The district currently has a Career & Technical facility behind Dulles High School, and many of the campuses have related programs on campus.

FBISD director of Career & Technical Education Meredith Watassek said if the bond passes in November, the district will have several options in addressing Career & Technology needs.

“The intent behind having the money allocated for the bond is that we can listen to what industry is telling us for the best way to utilize those funds,” Watassek said. “We can’t meet the industry where they need us to, if we don’t put the money in the bond.”

Watassek said the district works with local industry to determine where employment needs are present, such as the Oil & Gas industry and related industrial fields such as welding.

With regards to a second Career & Technical building, it’s possible that the district could use an existing high school campus.

“We want to utilize our facilities to the best of our ability,” Watassek said.

The lack of a concrete plan has some residents concerned about this part of the bond.

“I love the idea of Career/Technical Education,” Angi Hillin wrote on Facebook. “but I don’t like the vagueness of it. Career/Technical Education is a terrific idea, but only if implemented well…I’d like to see more specifics.”

Stafford business owner Mike Schofield, who works closely with the district to promote technical education, said the district should have sufficient introductory wood and machine shop facilities at every high school campus and more advanced equipment at a centralized district facility.

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