Montgomery Business Journal

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Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies Set to Open

Summer 2016
By David Zaslawsky 
Photography by Robert Fouts

Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen recalled a principal telling her that a student was in tears over a transcript or some information blocking an opportunity to attend the district’s new Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies.

“She did not want to miss the chance to be part of that program (MPACT),” Allen said. “I’m thinking they are getting serious. This gives them an opportunity to get serious about their futures, and I’m delighted that we can do that.”

Margaret Allen MBJ
 Margaret Allen

Students are serious about MPACT, and the business community is serious about MPACT because that’s where their future employees will come from.

Although that’s just an anecdote and a small, very small way to gauge student interest in MPACT, what about 380 applicants for the program? Or about 200 students not graduating wanting to remain in the program? There were 249 students in the program in the spring.

The goal now is 500 students for the fall semester, which begins in August at the new facility at One Center. That’s double the enrollment in one semester. MPACT Principal Marsha Baugh, for one, was not surprised at the surging number of applicants. “I think they (students) just weren’t aware of the opportunities that were here for them. I could tell that we were going to have a large number of applicants. I don’t know that I ever could have anticipated 380.”

She credits the students, who are the program’s best recruiters. “This has just been a blessing for so many of them and they go back to their zoned schools and tell everybody,” Baugh said.

That enthusiasm may filter down to the elementary school students, who will learn “there are so many opportunities out there for them,” Allen said. It has already gone up the ladder. “I’m excited about the interest that our students across the system have for MPACT,” Allen said. “They (students) took their tours out to MPACT and quite a number of them just fell in love.”

Remember this was all before MPACT opened. “I feel like when we are in this new building and students come and tour and see what we have and what we can offer, I think it will make a huge difference,” Baugh said.

It’s no doubt a game-changer for the school district and community. “It’s just great for motivation,” Allen said about students working “alongside of individuals who are in the profession already.”

There is plenty of room to expand at MPACT, as 100,000 square feet of the building is not being used. Students will attend either a morning or afternoon session at MPACT and take their core classes – other than math – at their zoned schools.

“We could easily accommodate 600 students,” Baugh said. “We are looking at some options for having a third shift of students.” Students will spend 2 hours and 45 minutes at MPACT.

Excitement has been so widespread that even instructors have been swept up in the wave. During student interviews with instructors there was competition for a student, Baugh recalled. “I could tell that the electrical teacher wanted him (student) and the welding teacher also wanted the same student to be in their program,” she said. Baugh saw the welding teacher pull out a paystub from a friend who is a welder and showed that to the student. “ ‘If you can make this somewhere else, let me know, and I’ll let you out of this program and you can go do something else.’ ” The teachers “want the best of the best,” Baugh said.

When students walk inside the doors to MPACT they will find “a workplace environment,” which was the top priority, according to Baugh. “We want those students to walk in and feel like they’re at their job. Students will basically clock in and clock out just like they have a job. They will be assigned roles and responsibilities.

“Each major will have a company name. They will have jobs within that company. They will have employee manuals. They will develop their own name; develop their own logo.”

The school will follow the Alabama Simulated Workplace manual, Baugh said.

She said that if medical science students want lab coats the advertising/design students will create a logo for the lab coat. “We’re going to work together in a lot of ways.”

You hear over and over again the importance of opportunities for students to succeed. “For some of these kids, this is the best part of their day,” Baugh said. “This is what is giving them an opportunity to make money on their own; to work their way up – to own their own business.”

They also learn skills that can be very useful. One student saved his family money when the heater stopped working over the Christmas break, Baugh said. The student’s mother was going to call a repair person, but the student said he wanted to look at it. He repaired it.

When the electrical sockets in Baugh’s kitchen stopped working, the electrical teacher went to Baugh’s house with two students. They figured out the problem and repaired it – the teacher did the work, but there was plenty of instruction going on. “It was amazing,” Baugh said. “How great is that?”

The semester will start with 10 majors/programs: medical science, electrical, building science, welding, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, advertising/design, industrial systems (advanced manufacturing), information technology, fire science and public safety.

“There are jobs that are probably going to come for students that we’re not even aware of yet,” Allen said. “This is our chance to follow the direction of technology – the direction of all sorts of businesses that are developing and coming into fruition as we talk.

“We can grow and become more accessible to what businesses choose to offer here in Montgomery. We will keep our eyes on what is happening in the country and try to make those same kind of responses that will connect children to futures.”

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