RACINE COUNTY — In the eyes of Eric Gallien, Racine Unified’s next superintendent, the district’s new career academies program is a way for high school students to “find themselves.”
The Academies of Racine are small learning communities that provide real-world experiences with local businesses and professionals, linking schoolwork and the workplace. Students can choose between 14 career pathways, focusing on things such as engineering or business, as examples.
During an event about the progress of the Academies of Racine program hosted by Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce Tuesday at Roma Lodge in Mount Pleasant, Gallien drew connections between the program and his experiences in high school.
Gallien, currently the district’s deputy superintendent, grew up in a single-parent home in the Milwaukee housing projects.
“We were very poor, coming up,” he said.
Gallien said that, during high school, he was somewhat of a class clown but was always able to bring people together, whether it was meeting at McDonald’s after school or going to the homecoming game.
“That wasn’t always productive, but I had a principal and teacher that saw those skills in me, who saw that leadership ability,” Gallien said.
They introduced him to his school’s business education program, and his teacher challenged him to write his own business plan. Gallien accepted the challenge and found funding for his business project.
“I was able to really learn a lot about who I was as a student,” he said.
This experience helped Gallien to re-engage in school. He went on to join the U.S. Marine Corps and to obtain two master’s degrees and a doctorate.
Gallien said it was the introduction to business that put him on the path toward success, and he said that is exactly what the Academies of Racine aim to do.
“It’s to really give these students an opportunity to find themselves,” he said.
The academies program began last year with the freshman academy. Freshmen students took part in a commitment-to-graduate ceremony, attended the district’s See Your Future Expo and visited college campuses. They also learned soft skills like how to shake hands and the importance of making eye contact.
Then, they participated in a spring freshman declaration day, in which they decided which academy they would attend. Now those students, who are currently sophomores, are attending their chosen academies.
Jaylen Love, a sophomore academy ambassador in the health services pathway, spoke about his experiences last year.
“Overall I felt that the academy program itself was a great experience for me, because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school and attending the See Your Future Expo, that kind of helped give me the idea of all the types of careers around the Racine area and the different things that I can do,” Love said.
Through the academies, the district aims for every student to have the opportunity to leave high school with industry credentials or college credits.
According to Gallien, so far 180 business and community organizations have committed to partnering with the school district on the program. And more than 400 teachers have visited businesses and college campuses to find out what their students need to learn to set them up for future success.
Last year, 89 percent of freshmen attended school on a regular basis, 91 employers and civic partners were involved in school programs, and 284 community volunteers were involved in the program.
One of the most significant numbers, Gallien said, is the 123 co-op and youth apprenticeships that were offered to students.
“That makes Racine Unified the No. 1 district in the state of Wisconsin as it relates to those types of experiences,” he said.
At the end of the last school year, 60.5 percent of freshman had obtained seven or more credits, and there was a reduction in office discipline referrals.
The average freshman grade-point average last year was 2.3. Gallien said the district is making efforts to improve that this year.
RACINE COUNTY — The City of Racine’s Transit and Parking Commission decided Wednesday to postpone making a decision regarding the Ryde’s bus stops in Sturtevant.
Sturtevant’s Village Board decided to strip Ryde funding from its budget this year, leaving a $42,600 gap in the funding for routes 20 and 27, which currently have stops at the Department of Motor Vehicles, Renaissance Business Park and Gateway Technical College’s IMET training center in Sturtevant.
At Wednesday’s Transit and Parking Commission meeting, transit manager Michael Maierle gave a presentation on some of the options available for the two routes.
Maierle said both 20 and 27 have the lowest number of riders per mile with an average of 56 riders or 112 trips per day. That makes the cost of operation per mile much higher than the service’s other routes. The most popular destination is the DMV, followed by Goodwill Industries distribution facility.
Maierle said one option was to maintain the routes but remove all stops within Sturtevant.
That would mean that on route 20 the bus could stop on Rayne Road, a short walk to the DMV, but Goodwill, IMET and Renaissance Business Park would be inaccessible since there isn’t a good place for the bus to stop on Highway 20. Maierle also suggested the possibility of adding a stop on International Drive in Mount Pleasant where the new Goodwill distribution facility will be located.
If the commission decides to modify route 27, Maierle suggested having it continue southbound on Oakes Road to Walmart, then head eastbound on Highway 11 with a stop at Target before reaching Regency Mall.
Aside from modifying the routes, the commission could decide to keep them as they are and Racine would eat the shortfall, raise fares or cancel the two routes altogether.
During the public comment segment, Theresa Peterson of Racine said more people would ride 27 if the route’s schedule coincided with shift changes at Renaissance and Industrial business parks.
“Either (employees) can go out there on the bus or back on the bus but can’t do both,” she said.
Christopher Radcliff said that he depends on those routes to go to work, especially in the winter when he can’t ride his bike. Radcliff said the alternative routes seemed reasonable and thought that adding Walmart would increase ridership.
Mount Pleasant Village Trustee Sonny Havn said that with the Foxconn campus set to be built in the area, he’d prefer if the commission could put off making a decision until it could come up with some alternatives.
Maierle also read through comments he received via email and a Journal Times editorial. Many commenters asked if Ryde could find private partners willing to sponsor the service. Maierle said he liked that idea in theory.
“In practice that’s been very difficult to do,” he said.
Racine Alderman Raymond DeHahn suggested the commission table the issue to give Maierle time to further look into the issue. The commission also asked Maierle to reach out to employers along the routes to see if they’re willing to offer support.