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For Flagler County Students, a New Tech Academy Without Borders, or Traditional Walls

| March 1, 2013

Who knows. The next one could be a Flagler schools product. (Charis Tsevis)

Who knows. The next one could be a Flagler schools product. (Charis Tsevis)

Will the founder of the next Google come from Flagler County?

Perhaps it’s pie-in-the-sky to wonder if a local student might form the next enormously successful technology company, but Flagler School District officials hope that a new learning academy will fill certain needs for students, teachers and the school district, as well as possibly open some lofty doors.

Flagler County School Board members voted last week to join the New Tech Network, a non-profit group with aims to help students gain knowledge and skills needed to succeed through collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. The cost will be roughly $404,000 spread over five years.

“You never know,” Flagler County School Board Chairman Andy Dance said when asked if the next innovative company founder might emerge from the new technology learning academy. “We’ve had some really successful graduates. Our goal is to make these students successful in college and business. This is a great program to keep kids engaged and focused. We’re excited about the possibilities of kids having unlimited potential when they leave.”

There’s been a lot of interest from parents about the new technology academy–and  some misconceptions.

The academy will not be located in a new building. It won’t have its own football team. Instead, the academy will be on the Flagler Palm Coast High School campus and students will also be enrolled at the high school. Dual enrollment will also be offered, which offers students a chance to earn college credits at Daytona State College while in high school.

Students can elect to enroll in the academy, which will have a focused course of study much in the way other academies offered by the School District work, such as the Phoenix Academy and culinary academy. New tech academy students will receive regular studies such as math and language as part of a problem solving collaborative format.

“They have to work with people,” Dance said. “They learn through a team effort, through collaboration. It’s just a bit different environment than the normal classroom routine.”

Next year will be the first year for the new tech academy with slots open for 65 sophomores and 70 freshmen. Thereafter, 70 new 9th-grade students will be admitted, under the current plans.

“It’s what you call a campus within a campus, or a school within a school,” Dance said of the academy.

Some students struggle coping with the large campus environment such as Flagler Palm Coast High School, where about 2,258 students are enrolled, Dance said. The academy gives students a sense of belonging to a smaller group along with a creative problem-solving approach to classroom work.

Every student in the new tech academy will receive a technology device, such as a laptop or pad, to take home and use for their lessons. Students today are technologically savvy, said Jacob Oliva, assistant Flagler School District superintendent.

“We’ve been looking for ways, for some time now, to personalize student learning opportunities, to challenge the system and push the envelope,” Oliva said. “What will the classroom of the future look like? What direction is the classroom going? Teachers are looking at ways to take activities they know are good for kids and infuse them in the learning environment.”

Oliva said teachers have achieved success with the problem solving approach and students have reported the programs that were most helpful to them stressed problem solving, critical thinking and learning how to work together with others. Students will still get core studies, such as language and math, but as part of the problem solving approach.

“This model that the New Technology Network has is very much what we are looking for,” Oliva said.

Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Lynette Shott and teacher Kerri Sands will travel to Fort Wayne, Ind., for training at a cost of $2,224. They will in turn train other teachers locally. The New Tech Network encompasses about 200 schools across the country, but Flagler Palm Coast High School would be the first site in Florida. Flagler school officials hope their academy will become a demonstration site where teachers from across the state go for training.

“That’s exciting that we could be pioneering this methodology,” Oliva said.

It is also hoped that the new tech academy might attract some students who, along with their parents, have chosen home-schooling, charter or private schools. A boost in attendance could increase funding for the School District. Funding of public schools is based partly on the number of students enrolled. As of January, 12,806 students were enrolled in Flagler County School District schools from kindergarten to 12th grade.

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3 Responses for “For Flagler County Students, a New Tech Academy Without Borders, or Traditional Walls”

  1. Jill says:

    Wait a minute! What happened to the Advanced Technology College (formerly Advanced Technology Center)

    The ATC was created as a partnership years ago by Flagler County Schools, Volusia County schools and Daytona Beach State College (formerly Daytona Beach College)

    In fact, Donn Kaupfe was retiring and was set to become the ATC’s first Director until a sexual harassment suit brought by a District employee sidelined those chances. I beleive the County settled the suit for $100,000 of tax payer money.

    So why now do the powers to be want to start a new Tech Academy here in Flagler County when we already have one at the ATC. Do these head honchos wake up one morning and decide to roll out the plans for a new Technical Academy. Are the taxpayers of Flagler County aware of the cost in millions for this type of school. Go ask the current ATC, in fact take a tour of the building and the classrooms and one can see that the equipment alone is quite expensive not forgetting a staff to maintain it.

    Look, we already have students from the Flagler County Schools that are bused daily to the ATC. Why the unnecessary expense to taxpayers. Here we go again spending, spending, spending. Are we doing this just to say that it will be the first Tech Academy in Flagler County. The area is very depressed with technological jobs and graduates from the ATC have had a tough time finding technological jobs as a result. I just don’t see the wisdom for such a school here in Flagler County at this time. This is a very expensive proposition. Besides, The State Department of Education and possibly the State Legislature would have to approve and sign of on such a risky investment when the ATC is already receiving State funding along with Volusia, Flagler and Daytona State College monies. I’m starting to look at this School Board as nothing more than a rubber stamp. Wake up Flagler County residents, hello!

  2. Whodat says:

    Once again I question the powers to be, not only the Flagler County School Board, but also the Superintendent’s office for creating a new technology tract program which is a duplication of one that already exists to which taxpayers already fund.

    I am not against students learning a new technology but I am against needless and wasteful spending of taxpayer monies toward this venture of the Superintendent’s and School Board’s questionable funding, even fuzzy, Flagler County Taxpayers long term commitment to this endeavor when we already have an excellent Technology tract and consortium.

    “The ATC is a public/private partnership. Daytona State College, the Volusia County School System and the Flagler County School System represent the public side of the project and are joined by the ATC Board of Directors, which is composed of business and community leaders who represent the private side of the project. The ATC is a member of the Volusia Flagler Career Connection Consortium and is supported by the business communities of Volusia and Flagler counties.”

    So, why all of a sudden the rubber stamp by the School Board to pass and appropriate funding for this expensive venture. I question the $404,000 cost spread over a five year period. There are many unanswered questions: Is this pie in the sky with forethought of “Clouds” in the sky? Doesn’t this take away potential Flagler students from the original intent of the Advanced Technology Center Program which was agreed to by the Flagler County School System? Do taxpayers now have to pay double for two Technology Programs? What does the State Legislature have to say with respect to funding both of these programs? What is special about this program versus the ATC program? Is there disagreement about the way the ATC is run?

    Ironically, Donn Kaupke was retiring and was set to become the first Director of the then, Advanced Technology Center (ATC), now known as the Advanced Technology College. Mr. Kaupke’s directorship was put on hold while a sexual harassment charge was alleged and investigated. The Flagler County School Board settled a $100,000 settlement to a school employee and Donn Kaupke was never hired.

  3. Samuel Smith says:

    “It is also hoped that the new tech academy might attract some students who, along with their parents, have chosen home-schooling, charter or private schools. A boost in attendance could increase funding for the School District. Funding of public schools is based partly on the number of students enrolled.”

    It’s not about the kids, unless by “kids” you mean revenue.

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