KINGMAN - When Betsy Parker hands over the reins of the Western Arizona Vocational Education/Joint Technical Education District to Amy West next month, Parker hopes to walk away and never look back.
Not because she's grown tired of serving as superintendent of the district for the past six years or hopes to dump the growing program and its challenges on her successor. Rather, Parker has the utmost confidence that West can handle the role all by herself.
"I'm very excited that Amy will be taking over," said Parker, who has known West for 22 years. "This is her whole life and she's never been anything else but a career and technical educator. She got the training she needed to qualify for this job, and she cares a lot about WAVE/JTED. She'll have some challenges but nothing really unusual."
Parker officially will step down June 24, and West, the district's career and technical education coordinator for eight years, will move into the superintendent position July 1. The two women will work together at the WAVE/JTED office in the Mohave County Administration Building for part of June as they make the transition.
West, who now has an office at Kingman High School, was instrumental in the formation of WAVE/JTED, a public school district comprised of four local school districts - Kingman, Bullhead, Lake Havasu and Parker - containing six high schools. In November 2008, the voters of LaPaz and Mohave counties approved the idea, and it became an official district on July 1, 2009.
There were 11 districts in the state at the time, and West frequently spoke about the benefits of joining, even though it meant homeowners would be paying additional property taxes. The balance of the district's funding comes from the state of Arizona. Currently, there are 14 districts statewide.
"There were things we couldn't do without this funding," said West. "Equipment is expensive in the real world, and we needed it for our students. These are the kids who are typically not recognized but have a passion for something. They're the ones who will be fixing our cars and taking care of us in the nursing homes."
WAVE/JTED provides vocational and technical education in the public school system to keep students in school and help them be prepared for the workforce. It has one governing board comprised of representatives from each participating local school district.
By combining enrollment numbers, efforts and expenditures, WAVE/JTED can offer students more opportunities and better-funded programs. It partners with local community colleges and shares space, equipment, staff and facilities. As a result, many students are able to accumulate community college credit hours or certificates.
Each year, WAVE/JTED issues three payments to the four school districts, with a total of $1,721,478 disbursed during the 2014-2015 school year. The payments are based on the number of students enrolled in career and technical education classes, and the students who are members of specialized student competition organizations.
Payments received throughout the year were $536,212 for Lake Havasu, $477,876 for Kingman, $499,940 for Bullhead City and $207,050 for Parker. The schools also collected Classroom Site Fund dollars totaling $206,000 to be shared among the partner districts.
The operating budget for WAVE/JTED for the past year was $3,258,785.
Parker, who was assistant superintendent of the former Kingman Elementary District No. 4 and assistant superintendent in the Kingman Unified School District, retired in 2009. She then took the job as superintendent of WAVE/JTED, where she has worked since then.
"We were brand-new as a JTED, and it was very exciting to be part of forming a new district," said Parker. "There was a big learning curve, but I made myself aware of career and vocational education opportunities here. I've loved this job since the beginning. It's so positive and I get to watch kids get certificates for things they'll use the rest of their lives."
Her main goal from the start, said Parker, was to grow the WAVE/JTED program and the number of students participating in it. The first year, four high school students took classes at Mohave Community College. This year, 85 students per semester are taking classes there.
Also the first year, there were 2,244 students enrolled in Career and Technical Education courses, which included freshmen through seniors. This year, 2,400 students participated in CTE courses - and only sophomores, juniors and seniors are counted now.
The number of programs has grown 50 percent in six years, said Parker, with Kingman having 13, Parker offering 5, Bullhead featuring 13 and Lake Havasu having 16. Also, WAVE/JTED has acquired industry-standard equipment, updated teaching facilities and started new programs.
All of Parker's goals that she brought to the table the first year have been met and more, she said. The goals were increasing the number of students, making more people aware of JTED, offering more community college courses, doing well on state assessments and opening a central campus in Lake Havasu City.
WAVE/JTED also aided in the funding for sending more than 60 students to national competitions in three different states this year. The students are members of specialized student competition organizations, such as Future Business Leaders of America and the Health Occupation Students Association.
And in partnership with MCC and Arizona Western College, a growing number of programs are designed to not only provide students with an industry certification, but an associate degree, as well. Both are recognized throughout the nation. Total tuition expenses this year were $141,533.
Examples of college courses funded by WAVE/JTED include Computer Information Systems, Early Childhood Education, Certified Production Technician, Automotive Technology, Welding, Fire Sciences, Culinary Arts, Law and Public Safety, and Visual Arts.
"We've grown much more than I ever dreamed we would," said Parker. "And all the hard work we've done since the start has been worth it, because otherwise the students wouldn't have had the opportunity to take these courses and get these credits. We wouldn't have been able to afford the equipment they needed to learn their skills."
Parker said she will definitely miss being involved with WAVE/JTED, but she has two grandsons in southern Indiana that she wants to spend more time with now. She has purchased a summer home there and will keep her Kingman house to return to during winter. She also plans to learn Spanish and teach Yoga.
West has spent 22 years in KUSD, the first 14 teaching a variety of business and computer classes at KHS. For the last eight years as CTE coordinator, West has managed grants, supervised CTE programs and worked with the WAVE/JTED. West also coached volleyball and was an advisor for Future Business Leaders of America.
On top of that, West continued her education, earning a master's degree in vocational education and two advanced certificates for her principal and superintendent licensure from Northern Arizona University. West is married to David West and they have three children - Taylor, Jesse and Jacob.
For her part, West wants to make sure that WAVE/JTED continues to offer everything it does now, and she will be fine-tuning those programs over the next year. She also has some new ideas of her own, such as encouraging high school seniors who are released early to enroll in college classes, and pairing a regular biomedical innovations class with a CTE course.
"I'm an idea person and I believe in putting them out there," said West. "I just hope people will like them. There's a changing culture and climate today in education, and we have to show the variety and value of our programs to the students and community."
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