By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Thanks to a donation from Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Escambia County High School’s dream of a new Academy of Information Technology is a step closer to becoming reality.
Escambia County School System officials and officials of Alabama’s only federally recognized Native American tribe issued a joint statement regarding the new IT academy, which is scheduled to become part of the ECHS curriculum for selected students in 2020.
The academy will become the county school system’s latest work-based learning program, a specialized curriculum that will allow students to compete in technology competitions and will eventually lead to industry certification opportunities.
The IT-based learning scheme will afford participating students the opportunity to become proficient in computer systems, computer programming, web development and game design.
Assistant Superintendent of Education Beth Drew said ECHS’s Academy of Information Technology would be the only one like it in the county
“No other school in the county has anything to compare to this,” said Drew, who pointed out that Escambia County Middle School will serve as the “feeder” for the high school academy. “Students at Escambia County Middle School are currently taking classes that will prepare them to enroll in the academy. This will provide a seamless transition to the high school academy.”
Drew pointed out that fourth-grade and fifth-grade ECMS students who are destined for inclusion in the new IT program are studying keyboarding skills and how to conduct research, as well as learning coding and robotics, introduction to Google Docs and Microsoft Word. ECMS sixth-graders are currently studying each of those skills, as well as PowerPoint.
Students in grades 7 and 8 are taking it several steps further, Drew said, with study areas that include advanced coding and advanced competition robotics, graphic design, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, Digital Literacy, Microsoft Office Suite and IC3 Certification.
PCI officials recently authorized a donation of $12,000 to pay for curriculum and training that will take place during the current school year. The money is from the tribe’s Planned Giving Campaign, which is earmarked for donations to local schools, education scholarships, senior centers, youth athletics and various charitable organizations.
Stephanie A. Bryan, PCI’s Tribal Chair and CEO, pointed out that tribal officials consider the financial assistance an investment in the community’s future.
“We are excited to be giving back to the community by investing in education, and this will help ECHS further educate the next generation of the IT workforce,” Bryan said.
Drew said the donation would all but assure that the Academy of Information Technology will get off the ground on schedule.
“This donation … has made us one step closer to beginning an Academy of Information Technology,” she said.
Attending the check presentation were Beth Drew, ECMS Principal Debbie Bolden, ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua, and Stephanie Bryan.