Bill to benefit CTE programs

Published 7:50 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Diana McFarland


William Cousins left the restaurant industry after decades on the job to teach culinary arts at Smithfield High School, as part of the division’s Career and Technical Education program. 

He didn’t attend a traditional university and did one year at Johnson and Wales, a professional culinary arts school. However, Cousins worked for many years as an executive chef and food services director at several restaurants and centers, to include the Airfield Conference Center in Wakefield.

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Most of his education came while on the job.

For that reason, Cousins must complete nine hours of educational credits at a university — which would cost about $2,000 and add untold hours to his already busy schedule — if he wants to keep teaching beyond the limits of his current three-year provisional license. 

The same goes for Smithfield High School’s welding teacher, James Pike, who has more than 30 years experience in welding, having worked at Huntington Ingalls and NASA/Langley. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Those nine hours of course work have become a burden and an obstacle to keeping teachers for the division’s growing CTE program, said Isle of Wight County schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs. 

That is why the division asked Del. Emily Brewer, R-64th, to submit House Bill 1613, which would allow those credits to be waived in exchange for in-house instruction. 

The two courses are on classroom management and human growth and development, said Briggs.

“The bill would allow school divisions to provide professional development to these teachers on the same content they would receive in a college course.  There would be no financial obligation and the schedule would be more flexible than if it were offered through a college.    We want to remove roadblocks that may prevent quality CTE teachers with industry experience from going in to, or staying with, public education as a second career. This bill would help make that happen,” said Briggs. 

The bill has cleared the Committee on Education with a 22-0 vote and is now on the House floor. 

Cousins, 41, who was unaware of what was brewing in Richmond, said that this bill, if passed, would take a huge load off his schedule — as well as financially. Not only does Cousins teach during the week, he also works with culinary arts students on weekends catering various events. 

“That’s one less thing to worry about and I can concentrate on the kids,” he said. 

As a chef and food service director supervising more than 80 employees, well, “You get the gist of classroom management,” said Cousins. 

Briggs said the division can keep a provisional teacher beyond three years, but there are penalties imposed.

“We can ask for an extension, but beyond the extension, the division would take a “hit” on state accreditation reports for not having “highly qualified instructors,” said Briggs. 

That qualification stems from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which defines a highly qualified teacher as a teacher who is fully licensed by the state, has at least a bachelor’s degree and has demonstrated competency in each subject taught, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

Isle of Wight’s CTE program, which began in 2017, offers, in addition to culinary arts and welding, cosmetology, building trades, agriculture, health sciences, engineering and mechatronics and manufacturing, with global logistics to follow.  

Cousins said he left the fast-paced restaurant business to offer students access to equipment, fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and experience that wasn’t available when he was in high school. 

“They’re seeing it, they’re touching it, they’re smelling it,” said Cousins of the work the students get to do in the division’s culinary arts kitchen. {/mprestriction}