CLPS becomes a Ford Next Generation Learning Community

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published September 8, 2021

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CENTER LINE — As the new school year gets underway, Center Line Public Schools officials announced the district received the distinction of becoming a Ford Next Generation Learning Community.

On the evening of Aug. 31, school officials, educators, local dignitaries and students gathered inside the Center Line High School auditorium for a ceremony to celebrate the achievement.

Ford NGL comprises a network of supportive communities that seek opportunities to increase student achievement, improve workforce and economic development outcomes, and achieve community prosperity. The Ford NGL communities share a set of common values that guides the communities’ work.

Ford NGL is nationally recognized for its approach to transforming public high schools into career-themed academies designed to better prepare students for college and professional success. Center Line’s journey toward becoming a Ford NGL Community began in 2015 when the district began transforming the high school into wall-to-wall career academies.

“Center Line identified a need for our educational system about seven years ago,” Center Line Superintendent Joseph Haynes said. “We looked at ways to fill that need. Our research led us to Ford Next Generation Learning. Our partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning has helped us help our students. A great number of individuals have left their fingerprints on the design and implementation of the Academies of Center Line. Our appreciation goes out to all of them for all of their time, effort and dedication.”

When students enter CLHS in the ninth grade, they begin attending class in the Freshman Academy. From there, they choose a pathway of study within two of the career academies. The Industry, Technology and Innovation Academy offers a variety of courses, including engineering technology, art and design, business and digital design. The Health and Human Services Academy includes health wellness, first responders, law and justice, and public service curriculum.

At last week’s ceremony, several individuals involved in the district’s accomplishment spoke. CLHS juniors and student ambassadors Antonio D’Agostino and Jessica Woolsey emceed the evening.

In 2020, with support from the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, Ford NGL and the community, the district began a new three- to five-year strategic planning cycle to enhance learning opportunities for students in grades K-12. Staff even visited a Ford NGL Community in Nashville.

“All students were learning in an academy of their choice surrounded by a team of staff members and taking classes with peers in the same academy,” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Lisa Oleski said. “Under the guidance of our Ford NGL coaches, our 3- to 5-year plan was submitted. We are proud to announce this past year we were informed that our plan was accepted and we earned the honor of being a Ford NGL Community.”

The high school academies opened in August 2016 under the administration of then-superintendent Eve Kaltz. Now retired, Kaltz shared a story as to how the high school transformed into the academies.

Several years back, an eighth grade student transferred into the district. Kaltz met with him to let him know about the different opportunities available at school. While he promised to be a respectful student, be in class every and be good to his teachers, he wasn’t too enthused about his academics.

Kaltz said “she got to know him very well. Great kid.” When she met up with him again during his senior year at the high school, she asked the “C average” student his future plans. During their conversation, something he said really struck Kaltz.

“You and I both know if you don’t go to college you’re nothing. Everybody knows that,” is what he told her. “Is that the message you believe I’ve given you?” is what Kaltz asked him.

“I went with him to talk to a counselor about what his next steps could be,” Kaltz said. “It was at that moment that I knew we had to do something to really honor and provide hope for our students as they neared the end of their high school career.”

When she went back to central office that day, she met with other educators to begin the transformation that would eventually become the academies. In the academies, the students are exposed to careers, industry skills and potential employers through classroom speakers, site visits, job shadowing and internships.

The classes in both academies also will cover the state-mandated core curriculum, including English, math, science and social studies and electives, including music, art and physical education.

Several other guest speakers addressed the crowd at the Aug. 31 ceremony, including Center Line City Manager Dennis Champine, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Ford Motor Company Fund Director of Education and Global Community Development Mike Schmidt. State Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, and state Rep. Lori Stone, D-Warren, presented the district with a state proclamation honoring the district for its Ford NGL Community status.