‘Bragging Rights’

Posted on 12/13/2021
‘Bragging Rights’

Athens ISD profiled in heralded ‘Bragging Rights’ publication

CTE expansion included among ‘most beneficial programs’ in Texas


By Toni Garrard Clay

Athens ISD Communications Coordinator


It’s not every day an organization is told they literally have bragging rights. But that’s just what happened to Athens ISD when the district was chosen as one of a dozen school districts in the state to be featured in the fifteenth annual “Bragging Rights” issue of Texas School Business magazine.


Published each December, the much-heralded Bragging Rights issue highlights programs and initiatives in 12 Texas public school districts that showcase innovative thinking, passion, determination and strong leadership.


“This year we received 100 unique entries from across the state, and pored over them to choose what we felt were the most innovative, the most beneficial and the most inspiring programs out there,” wrote Editorial Director Dacia Rivers. “... If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working on this special issue, it’s that providing outstanding education to Texas public school students is a team effort, and every administrator is on board.”


Athens ISD secured the attention of Texas School Business —  which is considered an institution in the world of public education — due to an innovative shift in the school district’s career and technical education (CTE) program. AISD is currently in its second school year of offering three CTE classes at Athens Middle School, classes that were previously reserved for high school students alone. Unlike the vast majority of students across the state, eighth graders at AISD can take principles of construction, principles of agriculture, or principles of hospitality and gain a head start on a potential career track.


“Virtually the moment the Bragging Rights issue was published, I began receiving congratulations from fellow superintendents,” said AISD Superintendent Dr. Janie Sims. “The kudos are greatly appreciated, but we’re most excited to see our district — and the individuals behind this effort — receive recognition for innovation and hard work.”


Freshman Diego Pinedo took a construction class at the middle school last year and said the experience gave him confidence in his ability to think methodically and creatively.


“I’ve been working with my dad in construction, and the class helped,” he said. “I can see myself working in construction in the future and maybe even starting my own business.”


CTE Director Ward Wilbanks said one of the primary challenges to the expansion of the program to the middle school campus has been how to adapt standard classrooms to accommodate the needs of the CTE curriculums.


“We quickly learned that we needed a good shop vac and a dust collection system for the construction class,” said Wilbanks. “And our hospitality and tourism instructor has had to find inventive ways to teach fundamentals of food service without a kitchen lab. With the success of these programs, we’re looking toward better options to meet those needs."


Dr. Sims notes that the byproduct of having strong CTE course offerings, especially when offered earlier in the education process, is a skilled workforce for the surrounding area.


“We feel our students will have an edge in obtaining any job because of what we offer them in Athens ISD,” she said.


On a final note, this isn’t the first time the school district has been a groundbreaker in the state of Texas. Athens ISD was the first in the state to create an early college high school program within an existing high school. The school-within-a-school design, which is now in its thirteenth year as PINNACLE Early College High School, was used by the Texas Education Agency as a model for other districts to follow.

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