Science and tech program takes form

Kaua‘i Community College began planning a statewide science and technology pilot program last week to be implemented at three Kaua‘i schools next year.

The Hawai‘i Excellence Through Science and Technology Academy Pilot Program was approved by the state Legislature as part of Senate Bill 885 to facilitate career- and technology-oriented programs in public high schools.

It will create science, engineering, technology and mathematics academies within state high schools to encourage students to pursue those subjects in college and beyond.

Participating in the pilot’s creation on-island are Daniel Hamada, Kaua‘i district superintendent; the principals of three Kaua‘i high schools; Kaua‘i Community College representatives; and staff from the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board.

KCC Chancellor Peggy Cha said last week that the group has agreed upon an outcome for the pilot. The vision includes a program that is flexible enough to work on Neighbor Islands and utilizes resources and partnerships that are already in place.

With the mission declared, a committee will meet June 13 to begin hashing out the details.

“The objective is to make this work on Kaua‘i and expand it statewide,” said State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, last week.

Hooser co-sponsored the legislation, and added that the community college has good infrastructure and a history of working with the community.

“I believe it raises the stature of the program by having KCC involved,” Hooser said.

On being selected by state lawmakers to develop the pilot, Cha said KCC was targeted because it has had success working with high schools in the past.

“The Legislature and Department of Education were looking for a place to try this out on a small scale to see what was possible,” Cha said last week.

She noted that the learning needs of a diverse population of students must be assessed before the details are ironed out. Once identified, the program can take a lot of different shapes to address them.

“It is not a restricted kind of model because the workforce needs of these industries are not restricted,” Cha said.

While there is not an in-state example to follow, there are existing initiatives that the pilot will build on, Cha said.

For example, many community colleges already partner with high schools, and the small learning communities, or academies, approach to education can be seen in many school districts.

“(It’s important) that we not try to re-invent the wheel,” Cha said.

Essential to the program will be its focus on preparing students for the workforce following high school.

Cha noted that for every scientist there is a handful of technicians — and training for those types of high-paying, demanding jobs is critical to meet student and employer needs.

Hooser said the pilot program, and the bill as a whole, seek to ensure Hawai‘i’s long-term economic stability by emphasizing technology.

“People who have math and technology skills are going to be much better prepared for those jobs of the future,” he said.

The larger bill also includes training and educational opportunities in diversified agriculture, landscaping aquaculture and technical fields such as graphic design and robotics.

In addition, the bill encourages business and education internships and provides stipends for persons with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees who obtain teaching certificates through the University of Hawai‘i.

Cha said the pilot could move into the classroom after the new year, though full implementation will likely wait until next fall.

The pilot program has been allotted roughly $288,000 for fiscal years 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Most of that will fund up to three positions at Kaua‘i Community College in addition to other costs.

About $27,000 will go toward a new Department of Education position to collaborate with KCC.

According to the bill, KCC must report its plans for the pilot by the end of this year. Another report on the program’s implementation is due December 2008, with a final report on how to adapt it to other state schools due December 2009.

The bill was approved by the state Legislature May 3. It now awaits action from Gov. Linda Lingle.

According to Russell Pang, chief of media relations for the governor, Lingle has until July 10 to sign the bill, veto the bill or allow it to pass into law without her signature.

• Blake Jones, business writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or bjones@kauaipubco.com.

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