Kaine Checks Out Tech Program At Clarke High

By:  Rebecca Layne

BERRYVILLE — Sen. Tim Kaine visited Clarke County High School on Friday to learn more about its Career and Technical Education (CTE) program.

He also reviewed local efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The Virginia Democrat said he wanted to boost CTE and will try to start a CTE caucus in the Senate this year.

“It’s a part of education I believe is not getting the attention it should,” he said, although he added that the program seemed to be “roaring back.”

The senator took a tour of the school and applauded the breadth of programs it offers despite its small size — International Baccalaureate (IB), agriculture shop, robotics and band, among others.

He also commended officials for hiring a STEM teacher leader, Debbie Biggs, last year.

Schools Superintendent Mike Murphy said the school has a 75 percent advanced-diploma rate and a 97.2 percent on-time graduation rate.

The school also had 85 students taking 260 IB assessments in May 2013, and 264 students at the school were enrolled in one or more IB classes during the 2012-13 school year.

Although school was not in session on Friday, Kaine was able to meet members of the FIRST robotics team who were working on their projects for the competition in Richmond in March.

He also got a chance to drive a remote-control robot. “Yeah, you shouldn’t let me do this,” he said as it veered off-course.

Senior Emily Snyder enjoyed shaking the senator’s hand after having contacted him and other legislators numerous times in her quest for a nomination to a service academy.

“To meet him in person is exciting,” she said.

Kaine also viewed the band room and spoke briefly about the arts. “It’s such an important thing. It might be a career, or something [students] just enjoy and appreciate.”

Senior and School Board representative Breanna Leach told Kaine that many Clarke students take part in more than one extracurricular activity.

“Everyone kind of puts their finger in every pie,” she said after the tour.

Before the tour, Kaine met with a small group of educators and administrators and one student to discuss concerns in education.

Murphy spoke about the importance of fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to help students with disabilities, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and growing the E-Rate, which provides kindergarten through 12th grade public schools and libraries with 20 percent to 90 percent discounts on approved telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections costs.

Murphy also discussed increasing Standards of Quality funding, eliminating the A-F grading system that will assign a letter grade to each public school starting in 2014-15, reducing the number of mandated Standards of Learning exams and piloting alternate assessment and accountability measures.