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    High school to open second academy

    State funds for the Information Technology program have dried up. Officials seek other aid.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- Countryside High School will open its second academy this fall in an effort to make the school more attractive to students.

    The Clearwater school started its first, the Academy of Finance, with about 20 students this year. In the fall, it hopes to expand that program to 60 students and debut the Academy of Information Technology with another 60 students.

    Countryside's new offerings join six similar academies that have sprung up across Pinellas in the last four years. They deliver instruction in drafting, graphic arts and environmental technology, to name a few, and are likely to multiply as the school district plans to let parents choose their children's school in 2003-2004.

    "Schools are looking for things that distinguish them from each other," said Dave Barnes, director of work force development programs for the school district.

    Countryside principal Julie Janssen said the school wants to give students a top-flight education with a career focus.

    "You want to have kids saying, "I want to go to Countryside,' " she said. "You don't want them to say, "I have to go there.' "

    Both of the new academies are affiliated with the non-profit, New York-based National Academy Foundation, which coordinates curriculum and trains teachers for nearly 400 academies in 39 states.

    But the changes come at a cost. Countryside teachers secured a $12,000 state grant to help start the Academy of Finance. Hopes the school could secure a second state grant for $20,000 dried up earlier this month as the Legislature rethought how it funds education.

    "I'm real disappointed," Janssen said. "Here we are, I think, trying to do good things for kids."

    Anna Ethington, director of the Academy of Finance, is now scrambling to find state, federal or foundation money for the programs. Janssen, meanwhile, has earmarked $10,000 received from an annual Pepsi contract to help fill the gap.

    Regardless of whether they can find at least $10,000 more, the school plans to run both programs next year.

    "We're just going to be building around what we've got," Janssen said. "We're just not going to let it fail. We'll do whatever we have to do to go forward."

    The curriculum at the two new academies will guide students toward careers.

    Students will take their core classes, including English, science, social studies and mathematics, as well as those tailored to a specific field.

    Finance students, for example, will take an English for Finance class each year. They will focus on composition and skills needed in the business world. As juniors, they will focus on interview skills, oral presentations, college entrance essays and resumes.

    Information Technology students will learn how to use software used by businesses, learn about programming and design Web pages.

    Between their junior and senior years, students in both programs will participate in a summer internship at area businesses.

    "They'll come out with contacts in the business world," said Nora Moulton, director of the Academy of Information Technology. "They will have the opportunity of visiting local businesses, put what they learned in the classroom to work and build real skills."

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