The beginning of a new journey for Randolph Career Technical Center [Podcast]

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When the doors opened to Randolph Career Technical Center last fall, there was a newfound sense of hope for the building and the programs taught there. New signage, fresh paint, renovated classrooms, and updated lighting were some of the many things that greeted students when they walked through the door to learn.

Halfway through the school year, it is obvious that more than just cosmetic changes were made. There are 300 students who attend the center for a half-day learning the fields of masonry, carpentry, electrical, or plumbing, up from a student population of 100 the previous school year. Partnerships with schools on the same campus are forming again, with agreements for students from Renaissance High School to start learning trades at Randolph and re-establishing a greenhouse for an agri-science curriculum with the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School right next door.

Randolph’s principal, Krista McKinney-King says the work on the building was the beginning of a new journey for the school, a welcomed beginning that has received renewed interest from companies who want to help as mentors and even help the students find employment after graduation. To her, that interest is a vital part of the success of her students.

“I want our youth to see the possibilities. They can’t see it unless they are out there to be a part of it,” she says.

 

Podcast Transcript:

David Lingholm:  [00:03] When the doors opened to Randolph Technical Career Center last fall, there was a newfound sense of hope for the building and the programs taught there. New signage, fresh paint, renovated classrooms, and updated lighting were some of the many things that greeted students when they walked through the door to learn.

[00:19] Halfway through the school year, it’s obvious that more than just cosmetic changes were made. There are 300 students who attend the center to learn more about the fields of masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical, up from a student population of 100 the previous school year.

[00:33] Partnerships with schools on the same campus are forming again, too, so that students from Renaissance High School and FLICS can take advantage of what’s offered at Randolph, also.

Krista McKinney‑King:  [00:45] It’s still been nonstop since the press conference. Because of the press conference, we are actually gaining more and more spotlight. When I say we, I’m talking about the kids. I’m talking about the school.

[00:58] Randolph has been in existence since the early ’80s. A lot of people, it’s so funny, when DTE was here….This was another day that they had come to volunteer. Trees were being cut down, so you can actually see the Randolph sign on the building. People were like, “I didn’t know Randolph was there.”

[01:19] It’s great to hear people in the neighborhood and the community come up. They were coming up in the summer, because they saw all the work being done. They were like, “OK, well…” They had already come before, trying to see if our students were available to do some work, but now it’s a revitalization, truly, for the community.

[01:36] We have a great community over here. We’re really trying to do some more with them. It’s all about tying to, and it’s all about still making sure that the kids are able to gain the learning experiences within the school and outside of the school.

[01:52] I will honestly say, since the press conference, it’s been very exciting, nonstop. The kids are very used to persons coming in and asking them questions. I love that, because I want my kids to be able to effectively communicate.

[02:08] I want them to be able to market themselves. I want them to be able to market Randolph. When we have opportunities like this, I really push them forward. I don’t force it, but I push them forward.

[02:19] That’s the same thing for our teachers. I don’t want anyone to be hush‑hush about what’s going on at Randolph. I want everyone here to be a mouthpiece for all the great things.

David:  [02:28] When there’s so much around here, the Foreign Language Immersion ‑‑ FLICS ‑‑ is right next door. You’ve got Renaissance High in your backyard.

Krista:  [02:41] It’s like a campus.

David:  [02:42] People don’t expect, when they’re driving around, if you’re not in the neighborhood a lot…

Krista:  [02:46] It’s funny that you say that, because I was fortunate to work under the leadership of Anita Williams, who’s the principal of Renaissance, as her assistant principal. I was there for four years, and then I came over to Randolph.

[03:01] Because of that relationship, she had always talked about, “You know, our students need to go over to the Career Tech.” I promise you, right when we were getting the ball rolling, I ended up, fortunately, getting a promotion, but being here.

[03:16] Because of that relationship, though, next year we’re going to have students from Renaissance, and it’s been a while. It may have been mid‑’90s when Renaissance students had been coming over.

[03:31] It’s funny, because I attended Renaissance, as well. I’m a Renaissance alum. I don’t remember this being offered, but I would never say never. It’s the fact that it’s such a high‑achieving high school.

[03:43] It’s important, though, because we even want students who are college bound to know the opportunities in Career Tech. She tells me every day, “Krista, parents are calling me. They want their kids over there. They’re interested in the electrical program, CAD.” Why not?

David:  [03:59] You’ve got drafting here. [inaudible] do anything with electricity.

Krista:  [04:02] We’re excited.

David:  [04:03] You’ve got to be a well‑educated person, able to learn quickly.

Krista:  [04:10] You do. Even looking at FLICS, I’m glad you spoke of them, because we do have a campus. Years ago, I believe, Mr. Losie, who’s the principal of FLICS, as well as Ms. Williams, she used to talk about, but I can’t say that Randolph was always part of that idea. Now Randolph is.

[04:31] Who’s to say what this may become? You have a wonderful K‑8 Foreign Language Immersion school. You have a high‑achieving, known for the high academic records of Renaissance High School, and then you Randolph Career Tech Center.

[04:47] I know with FLICS, we’re going to partner up with them. We have a greenhouse, and so we’re going to be re‑launching our horticulture program, but we’re going to refer to it as agriscience.

[04:57] We have a few students who are here at Randolph who also attended FLICS. They’re going to do some walking trips with the kids and try to do some hands‑on lessons through the science classes in the greenhouse. It’s all still about partnering up.

David:  [05:14] You’ve spoken about the kids, some that have gone to FLICS, doing the partnership with Renaissance High. What about the students that were here before all of the changes over the summer? How has their reaction been, and what’s that been like for the other students, too?

Krista:  [05:32] Coming to Randolph…I want to make sure that I mention it was also a high school. They had 9th through 11th graders. I was here when it was 9th through 11th grade. It was a high school component.

[05:46] That occurred as a result of the enrollment going down about four or five years ago when there was a split between EAA and the district, DPS. For what it’s worth, from what was shared with me, in order to retain students as much as possible, initiative was to begin a high school within a career tech center.

[06:09] We had kids who were very much connected to Randolph. Dr. Vitti, he understood, though, that coming here as a high school student, within a high school program, they weren’t going to necessarily get all things that a high school should provide, such as athletics, such as a real lunch program.

[06:31] Fortunately, the next‑best option was Mumford High School, which is literally two minutes away. It’s funny because my 150 students who were here as 9th through 11th graders, they growled a little bit. They couldn’t understand, because they were so connected to Randolph.

[06:48] Guess what? They go to Mumford for half a day, and then they come over here for the career tech.

[06:53] They love it. They’re coming in. They’re talking about homecoming, prom, graduation, extracurricular activities that unfortunately we could not offer them, because we were trying to balance both worlds.

[07:04] That is not to say that a high school and a career tech can’t necessarily work, know I’m not just saying that. This is a career tech building, it wasn’t a high school.

[07:14] With that being said, I look at those students who entered the building that first week, and they were in awe. The first thing they said was, “This should have happened sooner. Why did you all wait until we ended up only being here truly for a half a day?”

[07:27] The embraced it. They loved it. They could see…That’s not to put down what we had, because I don’t want to give an appearance that, for it’s worth, we had partners who came in and saved the day.

[07:42] The district still worked hard with what we had. You have to understand, I’m not the only career tech center. I’m not the only school in this district. You have to look at that when it comes to being equitable in your practice.

[07:53] More importantly, again, when the kids came through, they were happy. They loved it ‑‑ the fresh paint, the lights, the updated classrooms. They have a sense of ownership now. They take care of their own. I didn’t see that before, because what they were taking care of was not something that they wanted to claim as their own.

David:  [08:12] Especially the kids that were here before, now they get that high school experience that we all think of that so many of us had, plus the advantage of coming back. That’s got to be really exciting.

Krista:  [08:27] Yes, I love it. They’re seniors now. Most of them are seniors. There are still a few juniors and a few sophomores who went on to Mumford. Everyone is doing really well.

[08:38] For the kids who didn’t know Randolph before, it’s just like, “Oh, this is a nice building,” but it’s still a nice building. Again, when you think about skilled trades, you don’t always think like that. For them to come in and see it looking good, and still you can get dirty and look good while doing it, why not?

David:  [08:59] [laughs] Exactly, why not? I’m wondering what’s next here for Randolph, because it seems like this is the beginning of a journey.

Krista:  [09:11] It is definitely the beginning of a journey. I was talking to our deputy superintendent, Alycia Meriweather, a couple weeks ago. I said to her, “You know, everything is just happening…It’s kind of scary, though, because I have high expectations.”

[09:29] One of the things that Ms. Williams, my former supervisor, the principal at Renaissance, taught me was that, “Krista, never lower your expectations, because if you lower your expectations, then your staff are going to have lower expectations.”

[09:44] So, I was talking to Alycia, and I said, “You know, I’m trying to still move forward, but it’s still a little scary.” She said, “Krista, that’s good, because once you’re not scared anymore, then you don’t necessarily need to be here.”

[09:57] I said, “You know what?” and that’s all I needed. When she said it to me, I said, “Absolutely, once I feel like I’ve done it all, then obviously it’s time to move on, but there’s so much more to do.”

[10:12] What we want to do is continue to recruit and increase our enrollment, even for the fall. We currently have 303 students. Our goal is to at the very least maintain, but I expect for it to increase, because we’re going to add three new programs.

[10:26] We’re going to add welding. We’re, like I said, re‑launching the agriscience program. We’re also looking into adding heavy equipment operation and repair. We’re going to work with Operating Engineers 324. They’re going to hopefully partner up with us to support that initiative.

[10:45] In addition to that, there are several companies and small businesses who are reaching out, because they want to do some things with our kids. Even if it’s not a work‑based opportunity, or a potential summer job, or a job, it’s still about mentoring. It’s still about giving them the opportunity to shadow.

[11:08] It’s still about connecting with our youth. I want our youth to see the possibilities. They can’t see it unless they’re out there to be a part of it.

[11:13] We’re looking at definitely bringing in more students from outside of the district because, again, we do what’s best for kids. I don’t try to get caught up in the politics of everything.

[11:26] I had someone here, I’m going to go ahead and say it, from Cesar Chavez Academy, quite excited about perhaps getting students from there next school year.

[11:36] The word is spreading. It’s really important that it continues to spread as we build Detroit’s future.

[11:42] [background music]

David:  [11:42] Thanks for giving me a couple minutes to learn more about what’s happening. I can’t wait to come back and see, in another couple months, what else is going on.

Krista:  [11:52] Absolutely. Thank you.