Its CEO, John Uesseler (“ees-ler”), said the inaugural school year of the county’s only career academy exceeded his expectations.
“I think because this program was a community effort and everyone came together so strongly to support it, we had fewer issues in this first year than I anticipated,” he said.
Uesseler said the idea for the program arose from a strong partnership with the county’s school system and business community, including the development authority and the chamber of commerce, whose leaders expressed the need for a workforce with stronger skills.
Its program includes engineering, culinary arts, cosmetology, electronics, public safety, broadcast video, health care sciences and teaching.
Not considered a traditional charter school, the career academy is a charter program with specialized classes not offered at the students’ home high schools.
“We essentially borrow students for part of the day,” Uesseler said. “Those students belong to a school in the county, but we’re offering them an opportunity to participate in innovative programs that our business and industry communities have said are important to them.”
Uesseler said the career academy plans to expand the 2014-15 curriculum to include automotive, metal fabrication, construction trades, energy systems, marketing, graphic design and information technology networking classes.
Sharing space with Henry County High School and the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough, the career academy also will expand its footprint through a $3.4 million construction project to add more classrooms and labs, funded through a Georgia career academy project grant, next year.
Uesseler said in its inaugural year, about 1,400 students signed up to pursue a technical career path, making it the second-largest career academy program in the state.
“We have about 800 requests of students to participate next year for our secondary programs, so we’re estimating an enrollment of about 2,000 students, which will make us largest career academy in the state just in our second year,” he said.
“The academy is all about expanding opportunities. We want to continue to do that next year for more students.”