McPherson staff and administration want their students to have a clearer picture of their post-graduation goals.

McPherson staff and administration want their students to have a clearer picture of their post-graduation goals.

During the regular McPherson USD 418 Board of Education meeting Monday, Superintendent Randy Watson said this can happen through college visits and job shadowing.

These experiences help students see first-hand what they can expect after high school. It affirms some goals, fosters motivation in others, and makes another group completely change their mind.

“That’s what’s difficult when you’re 16, 18, 14, is trying to conceptualize what it is you like when you have limited real-world experience,” Watson said.  “We think that career exploration leading to job shadowing has got to be a bigger part of what every kid is involved with.”

Juniors and seniors have been the targets for this type of exploration in the past, but staff members want students to begin processing this earlier — beginning in sixth grade.

“We’re in the early stages, but we have to get students experiencing careers; we have to get kids experiencing what post-secondary education is like,” Watson said, “and that has to begin as early as we can and make that part of each school year.”

Younger students would visit college campuses in large groups, while older students would go in small groups or by themselves. It is the logistics of this Watson said will be most difficult, as McPherson has hundreds of students to account for.

But these opportunities are necessary, administrators said. One example is a female student who was set on going to cosmetology school but changed her mind after only two days of observing a salon. Another was a male student who, after getting on-the-job experience, was further motivated in school.

Watson said this is not possible through traditional means of watching a video or talking on the phone.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do, is match an interest and a passion with what they need to do and how they get it done,” Watson said, “and that sounds easy, but that’s really hard to do.”

If it’s accomplished, however, this approach can save time and money for all involved.

“If more schools do that, it benefits the colleges from a retention standpoint,” Chris Wiens, board member and McPherson College employee, said. “We get kids that never come to campus, yet they commit to us. Then they come and it’s not what they thought and they leave. All the money we spent recruiting them, and it’s just down the tubes.”

In contrast, it is the goal of McPherson USD 418 that seniors know their post-graduation goals by the fall of their senior year.

In other news:

• The board agreed to seek candidates for three additional staff members in the district to lower class sizes and fulfill the needs within the district’s Citizenship, College and Career initiative. The positions are for one science teacher and one English teacher at McPherson Middle School, and one fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School. Watson noted the possibility of internal shifts to fill these positions, which may result in the need to hire for vacant positions in other areas.

• The board approved a motion to seek bids for renovations to the McPherson High School science classrooms. The estimated cost is $500,000.  If passed, funds will come from the April 2 bond issue. If it is not passed, funds will come from capital outlay funds, which will delay district roofing, parking lot and carpet needs. Watson said capital outlay funds would be stretched for the next few years in this case.