Perry Community Schools to participate in Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Pilot Program

COURTESY OF PERRY SCHOOLS AND VANKIRK CAREER ACADEMY
Special to the Chief
Perry Community Schools was recently awarded a $745,557 competitive grant as part of a new Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Pilot Program.

Perry Community Schools was recently awarded a $745,557 competitive grant as part of a new Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Pilot Program to grow Iowa’s educator talent pipeline and support expansion of registered apprenticeships in schools across the state.

Clark Wicks, Perry superintendent, said the apprenticeship grant “will allow us to help more paraeducators enter the profession and help our current paras grow in the profession with minimal cost, good mentorship, and a strong connection to our community. Our goal is that several will eventually become Perry teachers.”

This innovative program will provide opportunities for current high school students and adults to earn a paraeducator certificate and an associate’s degree; all while working in the classroom as a paraeducator, and taking courses towards their education degree. The Perry Community School District is collaborating with DMACC’s VanKirk Career Academy in Perry.

Perry Community School’s apprentices will take many of their courses at the VanKirk Academy, some fully online classes and other in hybrid formats.

“DMACC’s strong pre-education program, close relationship with the University of Northern Iowa teaching program, and the VanKirk academy’s presence near student’s homes will help many students reach their goal of advancing their careers” said Eddie Diaz, DMACC VanKirk Academy director.

The Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Pilot Program will enhance the Future Ready Perry program, which has three career pathways in health, trades and education for high school students.

“There are several juniors and seniors who will be able to take advantage and get a head start on education at no cost to them by starting college classes while in high school, earning money and completing an associate’s at DMACC before pursuing a teaching degree," Future Ready Perry coordinator Connie Saenz said.

The apprenticeship program came out of recommendations from the Task Force on Growing a Diverse K-12 Teacher Base, which the Iowa Legislature called for during the 2021 session. The Task Force examined potential barriers to entering the teaching profession, with an emphasis on those underrepresented in the teaching force and submitted its final report to Gov. Kim Reynolds and the General Assembly last December.

The Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship grants drew 26 applications. Of those, 19 districts were granted awards totaling over $45.6 million, which will serve more than 1,000 paraeducators and students in 134 schools, ultimately creating over 500 new paraeducators and 500 new teachers. Funding for these one-time grant awards is provided through the state’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Recipients will regularly report their progress throughout the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. Current Perry School’s paraeducators will receive a program application via email. Applicants not currently employed at Perry schools can apply to the program if they are hired as a paraeducator. Openings for current paraeducator positions can be found at www.educateiowa.gov