Aerospace Academy at St. Augustine High

St. Augustine High School
Sacha Martin reported to Historic City News that she, Reba Ludlow and Kelly Barrera attended a presentation and tour of the Aerospace Academy at St. Augustine High School on Wednesday morning, November 5th, arranged by the St. Johns County Civic Association Roundtable.

The Roundtable asked Martin to write up their visit with comments on the Career Academies in St. Johns County. “The Aerospace Academy is a shining star among the 15 academies in the County”, Martin said.

St. Augustine High School
Visit of November 5, 2008
Education Committee, SJC Civic Association Roundtable

Overview and Presentations by Paula Chaon, St. Johns County District Office for Career Academies, Jay Steele, Director of Academies, and Joan Salzberg, Director of Academies at St. Augustine High School and the Tech Center (547-8538, Also participating, Kelly Barrera, SJC Airport Authority Board Member and Reba Ludlow, Present or Past Board Member, St. Augustine Pilots Association, Women in Flight, the Ninety-Nines (historic women pilots), and FCCJ Cecil Field.

The key elements which make an Academy successful are the small learning curriculum, a college prep curriculum with a career theme and direction, and an atmosphere of encouragement and counseling that creates self reliance in each student so that the student actually fosters his or her own success. Combine that with partners in the business world who become mentors and teachers– so the learning is real world and not purely theoretical– plus courses integrated with college level institutions, the success rate is outstanding. The overall theme of the academy is “THE FUTURE IS YOURS. GET READY” – and, “If you want to be successful, come get it.

There are currently 15 academies in the County. Nease has 2 in Communication and Engineering, Bartram has 2 in Design & Construction and Business & Finance, Creekside has 2 in Emerging Technologies and Environment & Urban Planning, Pedro Menendez has 3 in Architecture & Building Services, International Building & Marketing, plus Medical & Health. St. Johns Tech (under the SAHS umbrella) has an Academy of Criminal Justice, and St. Augustine High has 3 in Aerospace, Future Teachers, and Center for the Arts. There are currently 135 students in the academies, but because of the successful results, they would like to have 300 to 400 academy students. This has been the dream of Superintendent of Schools Joyner.

Academy students must take the required college curriculum of 4 English, 4 Math, 3 Social Studies (which includes History) and 3 Science courses. That leaves at least 2 elective academy oriented courses per semester, and there is a minimum number of electives in order to graduate.

How were these Academies chosen? They provide direction to State and regional targeted industries as well as lead to high skill, high wage careers. What are the benefits of Career Academies? Students come away with college credits at no cost, will have already been exposed to requirements needed in college, they are exposed to industry connections and benefit from real life experience, they have higher graduation rates and college attendance and will earn more than their peers.

Participating in a learning academy today can give a student an advantage in getting accepted to his or her college of choice. That is the initial reason a student enrolls in an academy-“because it will help me get into college.” The advantages go beyond that. Because there is a smaller satellite group, students get to know each other well, learn to rely on each other as a team, and help each other. For example, if one student is good at math but weak in English, he or she gets paired with a student strong in English but weak in math. The students themselves become tutors to other students at least one day a week.

Parents are strongly encouraged, if not required, to be part of the loop. If a teacher does not hear from a parent in order to arrange a student-teacher-parent conference, the parent is sent a certified letter. C or D grades are not acceptable for college admission. There were two Aerospace Academy students who prior to entry in the 8th grade had D grades, and within one semester of academy counseling became an A and a B student as a result of support and counseling. The school acts as a cheerleader to the student and prevents them from falling through the cracks. Academy students have higher GPA grades, higher gains in FCAT Reading and Math gains from one year to the next, and higher attendance.

The Academies do not work without partnerships from businesses and college level institutions of learning. Partners for the Aerospace Academy are the St. Augustine Airport Authority, Northrop Grumman, Galaxy Aviation, Falcon Chapter, STRAC Enterprises, St. Augustine Airport Pilots Association, the Ninety-Nines, Davis College of Business @Jacksonville University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ) Aviation Center of Excellence at Cecil Field. These partners give advice on necessary job skills and curriculum direction, provide guest speakers, act as role models, provide workplace internships, job shadowing and community service opportunities, as well as post-secondary education. Scholarships and grant applications are also made available to students.

There are 3 tracks of study in the Aviation and Aerospace Academy.

AVIATION – includes Embry Riddle provided Space Flight and Principles of Aeronautical Science (10th grade) and Flight physiology and Safety (12th grade). Air Traffic Control instruction (under FCCJ) includes the Air Traffic Control environment with a simulator for both air and ground control and Weather (11th grade).
AVIATION MAINTENANCE SCIENCE (under Embry Riddle) – Maintenance Mathematics and Physics and Aircraft Familiarization (10th grade), Regulations, Documentation and Drawing (11th grade), and Tools, Materials and Processes (12th grade)
ENGINEERING (under Embry Riddle) – Engineering and Computing for Engineers (12th grade).

Tours of Classrooms were provided for us by Tim, a Junior, and Deanna, a Sophomore.
(1) First to the A&P (Airframe and Power Plant) project they were working on. The class is building a 4 passenger aircraft called a Cozy Mark IV which has the engine and propeller in the rear and a shovel nose (like a hammerhead shark) in the front which is supposed to prevent stalling of the aircraft. Louis Romero from Grumman bought the kit for them to assemble. The main fiberglass core outer body is complete (excluding, power plant, canopy, nose, and propeller tail), and they are about to begin the landing assembly. Every day Deanna has two elective classes in Space Flight and Maintenance. She is also in the ACE academic program. The plane is being built in the back of the Space Flight classroom, in session while we were there, where teacher Gail Cullum was encouraging her Space Flights students to go to to apply for a $2,500 scholarship. All students had laptop computers on their desks.

(2) We then were shown the Air Traffic Control simulator in action under control of two students — one on Air Control and one controlling Ground activity before planes take off and after they land. The system allows different levels of density of air traffic as well as a change of weather conditions. We could hear the students talking with and getting responses from individual aircraft in the traffic pattern (such as “American 42”). Just as in real life conditions, they can control the direction, holding areas in the air and on the ground, and the altitude, etc. There are 5 jumbo wrap around screens which duplicate the window area of a typical control tower.

The motto of the Aerospace Academy is “The Sky is NOT the limit”. It partners with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, recognized as one of the top aviation and aeronautical universities in the world. Embry-Riddle professors teach dual enrollment courses on the high school campus. Students can receive college credits, equivalent to savings of more than $45,000, if they pass a mastery exam. Courses taught at the 10th grade level and above are taught by Embry-Riddle professors.

One impediment to attending the Aerospace Academy does exist. If the student does not live in the geographic area assigned to SAHS, then he or she must provide their own transportation to this high school.

November 8 to 10, a National Career Academy Conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Jacksonville. About 400 administrators, teachers and counselors are coming from all over the country to learn how to start or increase career academy programs. On Monday from 8:15 to 11:00, conference attendees will be taken to all 5 high schools in St. Johns County with career academies to get a first hand look.

Superintendent Joyner will be speaking to the group during the conference. After the conference, administrators and teachers from our county will have a debriefing on what was learned during those three days. Go on line to look at the National Career Academy (NCAC) which focuses on this student centered focus linking career academies to economic and workforce development with technical assistance, training and support –

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