SMITHFIELD – Career and technology students in the 2022 and 2023 classes at Smithfield High School will be able to finish their engineering pathway, but Principal Dan Kelley says the school needs to find a second engineering teacher before moving forward beyond that.
During the Oct. 4 School Committee meeting, Kelley explained to the committee that administrators did everything they could to fill two open engineering positions for the 2021-2022 school year. At the end of the last school year, he said there were two engineering teachers.
Kelley said the high school interviewed several engineering teachers to potentially fill the positions, working with local colleges, industry partners and the state, but were only able to fill one.
“We were successful with one; it’s all we were able to secure,” he said.
School Committee Chairwoman Virginia Harnois asked Kelley if all the classes were able to be filled this year, and he replied that they were not. He said the one engineering instructor has a full schedule, and not all engineering CTE classes are being held this year.
“We moved things around to take care of 2022 and 2023 kids to make sure they got through the pathway,” he said, but staff need to review how it will work going forward.
Kelley later said it is hard to pinpoint exactly how many students are in the engineering pathway, as many may not meet the prerequisites of passing pre-calculus and physics. Others lose interest in the program after the first course and change directions, he said.
Students must meet or show the ability to make the prerequisites and move onto the second course before being officially enrolled, he said.
By Kelley’s estimates, the lack of a teacher will impact about 40 students.
He said the engineering CTE pathway has three or four classes typically started in the 9th grade. Without the additional teacher, freshmen and sophomores may not have the option of taking the introductory course this year.
“The new teacher is taking over the older levels,” he said.
Kelley said administrators are still working on filling the second position.
He added that the position requires the ability to use computer-aided design and draft, or CADD, software.
Engineering is one of SHS’ longest-running CTE pathways, at more than 25 years old. Kelley said it has been growing in popularity among students. The pathway focuses on architectural and mechanical engineering. There were talks about expanding the program into fields such as biomedical engineering, but Kelley said those discussions have been put on hold while the district tries to fill the position.
“It’s very relevant with our kids,” he said.
Kelley expressed concerns about the implications the teacher shortage could bring to the district bringing in out-of-district students to study in SHS’ engineering pathway.
“Is this sustainable?” he asked.
Before the start of the school year, Supt. Judy Paolucci said there were no applicants for the two open engineering positions. She said the district would accept someone with relevant experience and work with them on certification.
She said at the time that those were the only teaching positions needing to be filled in the district.