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Lifelong Learning

Administrative team to lead development of career academy to serve all high school students

June 25, 2019

All high school students will have opportunities to explore career pathways at the career academy being developed by Moorhead Area Public Schools, said the new principal. Josh Haag, currently an assistant principal at Moorhead High School, is stepping into the leadership role in developing the career academy.

At the June 10 School Board meeting, Haag was hired as principal for the career, technical, and alternative education programs effective July 1. An assistant principal at Moorhead High since 2012, Haag also has experience as a K-12 dean of students, activities director, teacher and coach.

“My goal is to create a top-level school that all students in Moorhead have a chance to attend, creating students who are career, college or military ready,” Haag said. “I want students to have the ability to choose their own, best fit path, one they have explored by the time they graduate.”

Haag will have the support of Andrea Thiner, who was hired at the June 24 board meeting as a coordinator for the career, technical, and alternative education programs. Thiner has most recently been a teacher for West Fargo and Fargo public schools.

Haag, Thiner and Tamara Uselman, assistant superintendent of learning and accountability for Moorhead Area Public Schools, will be using guidance from business and parent advisory boards and input from teachers and community members over the next year to find the right program designs for the career academy.

During a joint meeting in May, facilities and conceptual design task force members discussed the career academy pathways and opportunities for partnership with local businesses. Planning is currently focusing on these seven broad pathways: health and human potential, farm to table, transportation, business/entrepreneurship, information technology, design thinking, and maker trades. Each pathway has multiple subcategories to provide opportunities to connect students with the business community to prepare for careers in the future.

According to Uselman, Moorhead Area Public Schools wants all students to graduate “choice ready.”

“By this we mean students will have had multiple opportunities to explore career pathways at the career academy,” she said. “Learning in a hands-on, mind-on environment creates deeper and more durable learning about pathways and how one’s own unique talents and skills match up to the demands of specific career areas. Knowing about the career demands and about one’s self puts students into a position of real choice about which career is a match to their skills and dreams.”

In April, the School Board approved purchasing the former Sam’s Club building to renovate for a career academy. This action followed the board’s acceptance in February of the High School Facilities Task Force recommendation to replace Moorhead High School on the existing site and add a career academy at a separate site.

Haag, who has experience with scheduling at Moorhead High, said schedules will be built so all students have access to the career academy.

“Middle school students will have some career academy exploration, ninth-graders will be on the career academy campus to see the pathways in action, and high school students from Moorhead High and Red River Area Learning Center will take one or multiple courses at the career academy,” he said.

Uselman said students who want to enter a medical field may take a CNA class, medical terminology, or sports medicine, while students wanting to go into agriculture may study ag production through applied biology and business classes. Students may run a cafe to learn food safety and nutrition, or they may manage a school store to learn business. These are programming decisions that will be developed over the year, she said.

“By exploring a number of pathways or working within one pathway in depth, students will be better ready to make career and/or college decisions,” Uselman said.

Haag has already set his sights high for achieving a top program.

“I am not interested in raising the bar, I want Moorhead’s career academy to be the bar,” he said. “I want this to become a demonstration school where other districts are looking at us to get ideas on what is possible.”

Photo: Tamara Uselman, assistant superintendent of learning and accountability, meets with Josh Haag, incoming principal for the district’s career, technical, and alternative education programs, to further discuss pathways offering opportunities for all students to be career and college ready when they graduate.

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