Mark Johnson

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson visiting an Adobe class at the Lincoln County School of Technology during his visit on Monday.

After his visit to the Lincoln County School of Technology on Monday, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said that the school was a great model to bring back to Raleigh to structure funding for similar schools across the state. This is Johnson’s second visit to Lincoln County. He made a stop at the Lincolnton campus of Lincoln Charter School in March accompanied by State Sen. David Curtis and Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine. Both Curtis and Saine attended the tour of the School of Technology on Monday.

After Johnson and others arrived, an overview on the School of Technology was given by Lincoln County Schools superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow, School of Technology principal Dr. Cale Sain and Mark Ward, a senior at West Lincoln High School who was one of three LCS students accepted into the Catawba Valley Community College Apprenticeship Program last year, provided an introduction to the school.

During Ward’s explanation of how the apprenticeship program worked, he noted that once he made it through the program and graduated with a two-year degree, he’d be making more than a starting teacher with far more education.

“That’s a whole other topic,” Johnson said after the laughter in the room died down. “That’s starting but then we’re getting to more pay faster under the new pay scale.”

After the introduction, Sain guided a tour of the school.

“I’ve been partnering with the superintendent on a number of his initiatives since he got elected,” Saine said. “I think he gets it as to where we are as a state and what we need to see in our education system.”

Saine said that his father, who retired from the Timken Company, trained in the building that the School of Technology is in now and that he was glad to see the facility utilized to continue to prepare the workforce for new jobs.

“(Johnson) shows us that the money we are appropriating is spent wisely,” Curtis said. “We’ve got to feel like our money is being spent wisely and he’s doing a good PR job showing that to us. That didn’t happen before.”

A wide variety of classrooms were visited including health sciences, computer aided design, interior design, woodworking and fire science.

After the tour, Johnson told Sain and the other guests how impressed he was with the school, especially with the apprenticeship and internships.

“There are a lot of cooperative and innovative high schools across the state and some do really well at catering to students who want to get college credit to go off to a four-year institution but we can’t just focus on those students,” he said. “What’s so amazing about this school is you have students who want to go off to college and right now are getting training that puts them ahead of the curve. But you also have students who want to explore different options whether that means going right to an immediate career or getting some training now and finishing at a community college. One thing that I’m working on is really reaching down in to the middle school years and explaining to students what their options are. It’s all about options.”

Johnson added that one thing he was working on is reaching down into the middle school years and explaining to students what their options are. For example, working as a power liner was a potential choice.

“To be a power lineman requires a high school diploma, a few months of certification,” he said. “It’s a tough job, has long hours, you work outdoors and its dangerous, but after few years on the job with overtime and all, you could be making almost six figures. That’s a choice we need to empower our students to make.”

Johnson said that after visiting the Lincoln County School of Technology that he’d be taking back to Raleigh the message that it was time to start scaling programs like the School of Technology across the state.

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