By Keith Jacobus, District 833 superintendent

As we near the end of 2017, we reflect on what has brought us to today and look forward to all that lies ahead. For us at South Washington County Schools, that forward thinking centers on our students, their futures and the variety of options that lay before them.

We want our students to be career and college ready. We work hard to ensure our students are prepared for college, technical school, the military or the workforce.

My dad was a machinist. He worked on gear cutting machines used to make a variety of large and small industrial gears for engines that powered ships, cranes, trucks and a variety of factory machines. My dad never went to college, but he was a master at math, and brighter than me in many ways. His career was challenging, but rewarding. He prided himself on hard work and doing his best. His job allowed him to raise a family and own a home.

I also experienced the manufacturing industry from the factory floor. In high school, I worked in a factory, running a grinding machine that sharped the gear cutting tools. I worked beside many great people who made a good life for themselves by filling roles desperately needed in any successful society.

Today, there is a shortage of people going into the trades, and many high paying jobs are left unfilled. The variety of career paths in the trades encompass many technological fields, as well as the more familiar careers in construction, plumbing, electrical or manufacturing. There are more wonderful career options for students than ever before.

Not only can students find career paths that interest them, they also have many options for advancement and high pay. Our Career and College Readiness programs are focused on helping students explore potential career options and begin to prepare them to enter their chosen career directly after graduation. As the expectations for what students need to know and do once they graduate from high school continue to change as the world of work changes, we are looking to enhance our programs and options for students.

We work closely with the Northeast Metro School District 916 to offer a variety of career and technical courses and programs at Century College. We also offer some career and technical programs and courses at our high schools, and are looking to expand these options for students through partnerships with our city leaders, local businesses and civic organizations.

When the public school system was developed in our country, the main goal was to produce an educated citizen with the skills and knowledge to work collaboratively for the betterment of society. Our goal has not changed, but the expectations on how we reach that goal have continued to change and evolve. For several decades, going to college has been the aspiration for many people, and the main avenue for securing a good job and ensuring financial prosperity. While a four-year degree is still an important step for many professions, in our changing world, there are now opportunities for skilled workers to secure a type of financial prosperity, once only available to people with college degrees.

We strive to personalize the educational experience for our students through a variety of course and program opportunities so they can successfully enter the world of work and contribute to the betterment of our society. I am proud of our students and the successes they have accomplished. I am proud of the work our teachers and staff do to support our students on their educational journey. And I am proud of the focus we have on helping each student, through a personalized approach, find their passion and voice in making their future career choices.

Of course, we would not be successful on these fronts without our continued community support. Thank you for your help and partnership in educating our children. We are grateful to you and hope you all have a wonderful winter season and a happy new year.