Looking to the future, the Watertown school board approved a new automotive technology program that will be offered at Lake Area Technical College.
The program, approved at Monday's meeting, will prepare students to maintain and repair electric vehicles.
The program is being offered to third-year students or current technicians that are seeking the certification.
The board was informed that the electronic vehicle maintenance and repair program has been well-received on the state level and requested that new courses could be in place as early as fall 2022.
Several letters in support of the new program from area dealerships were presented. One was from Scott Driscoll, president and owner of Watertown Ford Chrysler.
"We are already seeing an increased demand for technicians with the training and skills necessary to service these vehicles, and that will only continue to increase in the future as these are highly skilled positions that pay very well," his letter read.
Bob Scherbenske, the owner of Scherbenske Auto Repair Inc., also wrote to in favor of the program.
"Electric vehicles have been around in some form since the invention of the automobile. As an industry, we have seen technology and sales of the electric and hybrid vehicle increase in recent years," his letter read. "The demand for highly trained technicians in this area will only increase. Young technicians need to be fully prepared for the future workforce demands of automotive repair."
A course list for the program was presented to the board. Board member Jean Moulton took an interest in the list of required courses.
"It looks as if a science and math background is a strong feature to get into this program. In fact, they have to take a three-credit math course. Common core math probably wouldn't help with that if you need to do math and arithmetic quickly," she said.
Watertown School District achievement report card
The 2020-21 achievement report was presented to the board. Using the Smarter Balanced test, the school district can determine how students from kindergarten to 12th grade faired in various topics and how they compared to other districts.
The report also listed teacher demographics compared to the state, showing teacher years of experience and the level of education. The report shows that teachers are averaging 13 to 15 years of experience in the Watertown district. The state average is 14 years.
The report showed that the state average for teachers with master's degrees was slightly higher than in Watertown. In the district, the lowest percentage of teachers with master's degrees is in grades nine through 12 at 28%. The overall statewide average is 37%.
The district's average ACT scores are higher than state an national averages, according to the report, and Watertown's graduation rate is 97%, one of the best in the state.
"We are consistent at the state level or above," said Darrell Stacey, assistant superintendent.
Language arts and mathematics are tested using Smarter Balance. Science has also been tested in the past, but a new science curriculum is being released, so students were not tested this year.
"I looked at other schools in other districts that are of equal size to us," said Stacey. "If you were to compare us, we are fifth place in language arts compared to the other big school districts, and fifth in math. Back in 2019, the last time we did this report, we were second in language arts and math and third in science."
The report showed that 58% of graduating students were planning to attend a four-year university and 29% a technical college. The number of students headed for university has declined in the past five years with more heading to technical colleges or schools.
Moulton addressed concerns about college readiness in high school. She said there is less emphasis on college preparation than there used to be and that the district is offering fewer college accelerated courses.
Next week is American Education Week
Next week is American Education Week. The Watertown School District is planning to celebrate with special recognition.
"This week gives us an opportunity to celebrate public education and honor all individuals that are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education," said high school math teacher Olivia Forman.
Forman is also the 2021-2022 Watertown Education Association president.
Forman also informed the board that throughout the week, articles would be published in the Watertown Public Opinion that are written by individuals from the school district thanking staff for all that they do
This article originally appeared on Watertown Public Opinion: LATC automotive students offered electric vehicle training