Parents concerned about themed academies

One JDHS academy revealed, no specifics for Thunder Mountain

Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2007

Two concerns dominated the public comment session on the Next Generation plan Wednesday night, as parents doubted their kid's ability and desire to make career choices in high school. That worry was seconded by an overall fear that themed-based academies would limit their children's education.

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Sam Kito thinks kids don't really know what they want to do until the third year of college. Kito's concern was echoed by Chris Cummins.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do my freshman year in college," Cummins said.

Both parents were concerned that choosing anyone of the themed-based learning academies next year would route their children into a career path.

The Secondary Planning Committee took public comments from a crowd of 60 in the Juneau-Douglas High School library. The gathering was the third of six facilitated-comment sessions.

Only one academy was revealed by the committee, an architectural construction and engineering academy to be offered at Juneau-Douglas High School. Nothing specific has been decided for Thunder Mountain High School.

Tom Waldo asked the planning committee to consider not transitioning Thunder Mountain and JDHS to academies at the same time. Offer the traditional model at one of the schools, he said. Waldo's comment was echoed throughout the night, as parents told the committee that perhaps academies across the board were not the answer.

Waldo's idea could be tough to enact since the Juneau School Board wholeheartedly adopted the proposal from the Next Generation Advisory Committee last June. That 35-member committee recommended that at least three themed-based academies be offered at both schools.

The adoption of the full recommendation might have been a little ambitious, School Board member Mark Choate said.

Thomas Jolly asked what will happen if his son doesn't get the academy of his choice.

"How is he going to feel," Jolly asked. "Will it lower his standards? How will it affect him?"

Jolly got no answer from the planning committee because they were there to listen. Facilitator Barbara Sheinberg said the committee was gathering public input and encouraging others to make comments rather than ask questions.

Testimony from all six public comment periods will be recorded, and Sheinberg said the planning committee would consider the information before revisiting the proposal outlining the future of high school education in Juneau.

The School Board will hear a first draft of the final plan in December, and it's expected to adopt the final form of Next Generation sometime after the New Year.

John Wahl, parent of two and a district administrator, supports the new education plan. He simply favors a change from the 100-year-old model of education that exists now.

"The world we prepare students for must be the one they're entering into, not the one we come from."

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