Gretchen Price talks about Pathways

“The initial directive for the Pathways project was to ensure the success of all of our students," Gretchen Price began as she and her team explained the latest updates to the district's Pathways program, a program meant to help Muscatine County students achieve post-secondary education and career success.

MUSCATINE — The Muscatine School Board on Monday night heard updates on several programs and special education teachers. 

Gretchen Price gave an update on the district's Career Pathways program.

“The initial directive for this project was to ensure the success of all of our students. One of the things we found (in our research) was that even though kids understand the need to become prepared and develop the skills needed in order to be successful, very few of them were achieving post-secondary education.”

One of the things research showed that rate of achievement varied based on what the district thought was the issue and how it was addressed. One constant, however, was the need to develop career exploration and multiple pathways for success. “So we sort of took that as an initiative,” Price said.

For the Career Pathways offered at Muscatine, students can take the program through eighth grade or college completion, depending on how long the student wants to take it. Students have the option to take college-level classes while in high school, either online or taught by a teacher for college credit, or they can take a Career Academy, which is focused more on moving toward an associate’s degree or a job.

“They have a desire or a love for that trade already. They maybe found that love while they were taking a class in high school and maybe they’ve already taken all the classes offered for it and they want to keep going in that field, and that’s where we come in alongside the high school and offer a Career Academy,” said Jeremy Pickard, dean of instruction at Muscatine Community College.

There will also be scholarships offered at Muscatine Community College for students who complete 12 college credits, allowing them to only pay half of the tuition for their first year at MCC.

“What we’re trying to do is make college accessible and affordable for all students,” Pickard said. Since the scholarship started four years ago, the college has awarded $1.1 million in savings to area students.

The current Career Academies offered to students are agriculture, manufacturing, nursing, culinary arts and welding, with 34 students enrolled  this year. However, they have since expanded into nine pathways with 24 different programs of study. They also hope make the academies more accessible to students as well as more streamlined, and include different types of pathways and options depending on what the student wants.

“I really think that this is the beginning of a real game changer for a lot of our kids, and a great opportunity for our students,” said Superintendent Jerry Riibe.

Following the Career Pathways presentation, Becky Wichers, director of teaching and learning in Muscatine School District, discussed the shortage of special education teachers, specifically for instructional strategists. “This is the area that we’re having the most difficult time in filling open positions,” Wichers said.

Wichers acknowledged the work of special education teachers is difficult and demanding. As such, she suggested an incentive pay for them at the recommended price of $5000 per instructional strategists in the shortage area. 

The board then went over questions and concerns with this plan, wondering if they would have enough money to give incentive pay to the 26 teachers who now fall into shortage area and if the $5,000 would be enough to entice teachers into applying. It is not yet decided if the district will enact this plan.

Also during the meeting, Jessie Freers and Mary Wildermuth announced the completion of the new Rotary Club mural at Muskie Early Learning Center, which was painted by Chris Anderson over the entire month of December. Anderson said that it was “probably the best painting I ever did.” The mural was also a special project for the Rotary’s 100th anniversary.

“It was Rotary’s pleasure to give this mural to the Early Learning Center,” said Wildermuth.

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