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By Kevin Griffin Hickory Daily Record

NEWTON - The Catawba County Board of Commissioners listened to some proposals for moving forward on a K-64 educational partnership on Monday. 

The K-64 program is a proposed partnership to prepare students for the workforce by helping companies connect with students at a younger age. 

Partners would include Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC), the three Catawba County school systems and private businesses. 

CVCC President Garrett Hinshaw gave a presentation on the K-64 program's purpose, as well as plans for its structure. 

A major concern of the program is addressing the demographic trends Catawba County will face in the coming decades, Hinshaw said. 

Population projections for Catawba County from the North Carolina Office of Management and Budget show an anticipated decline in most age groups aged 59 and younger between 2014 and 2034. 

Hinshaw sees the K-64 program as the type of change that could be effective by giving people from the area a reason to stay by preparing them for local jobs early on, as well as bringing new people in. 

"We've got to do something so dramatic, so systemic in terms of the change that we create, that we will alter these numbers for the future, which means all of us will prosper regardless of what organization we're in," Hinshaw said. 

Hinshaw is proposing a K-64 board that has 14 members, which include representatives of Catawba County government, the three school systems, and local businesses, among others. 

The board would be responsible for overseeing K-64 initiatives and communicating information about the program to the public and stakeholders. 

The proposal Hinshaw put forward included two staff positions: a K-64 CEO and a Grant and Resource Development Officer/Contractor. 

Together, the positions would cost $200,000, including benefits, annually. 

Hinshaw is asking Catawba County Commissioners to provide $1 million in seed funding to cover the period from January 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017. 

The money would be used to bring in additional resources such as grants and private funding, Hinshaw said. 

"I would say within six months we have a very detailed, thick map of where we're going with this program," Hinshaw said. 

Hinshaw also emphasized the importance of seeing positive results in order for the program to go forward. 

"I don't see this as being something that we are continuing to invest resources in if it's not working," Hinshaw said. "It's got to be measurable outcomes that are showing changes that are going to effect, we hope, those demographics that were shown on the second slide." 

Hinshaw also laid out some of the areas the K-64 program would focus on. 

Technology is a major component of K-64, with funding going to ensure that all students across the school systems have access to devices for use in school and at home. 

To make the most of the technology, there would also be programs to train teachers and give parents ways to learn how to use the technology to help students. 

Other initial priorities include bringing The Leader in Me, a leadership training program, to all schools in Catawba County and providing work-based learning opportunities such as shadowing and internships. 

Superintendents from the county's three school systems were present to give input on the proposals as well. 

Having a single "point of entry" to help schools interact with businesses is a benefit of the proposals, Newton-Conover City Schools Superintendent David Stegall said. "And I think this is, it helps us all work closer together, and also helps us focus on the right work, not just crossing our fingers and hoping what we're doing is working." 

The practical focus of the programs could also help show students the relevance of what they are learning, Stegall said. "This gives context so students don't say 'Why am I learning this?' or 'Why is this important?' It's important because look at this job that this leads to," he said. 




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