Charter process named after Harless


Conferring at Newnan’s Central Educational Center about the school’s pilot certification process under the new Joe Harless College and Career Academy Certification are, from left, Jenny Williams, Mark Whitlock and Dr. Lucy Hayden. 

A new certification process for charter career academies in Georgia has been named to honor Dr. Joe Harless, a Newnan educator and business leader who pioneered the concept.

Harless, who died in 2012, was one of the prime movers in the creation of the Coweta School System’s Central Educational Center, the state’s first career academy. The board of the Technical College System of Georgia unanimously voted Feb. 6 to name the career academy charter process for Harless.

Dean Jackson, Coweta County School System public information officer, said the certification process is being piloted this year by CEC. Harless “steered the Coweta County charter committee that designed and created CEC,” Jackson said.

“Dr. Joe Harless was known around the world for his groundbreaking work. Most important, he was our friend and mentor,” said Mark Whitlock, the chief executive officer of CEC. “He coached us to organize a joint venture that connected local business, the Coweta County School System and West Georgia Technical College to focus on a mission to ensure a viable 21st century workforce.”

Whitlock termed as “invaluable” Harless’ contribution to the process that created CEC in 2001. “His intense commitment was all because he wanted to give back to his community,” according to Whitlock.

The Joe Harless College and Career Academy Certification is being developed to ensure that college and career academies provide the highest standards for dual high school/ college enrollment, increase student involvement and educational achievement, and advance workforce development for businesses in the area that it serves. The process has been led by AdvancED, which provides system-wide accreditation to the Coweta County School System, and is based on AdvancED’s accreditation standards.

“Seeking certification through the process is important to CEC for a number of reasons, including the growth of students who are dual-enrolled in both a Coweta County School System high school and in partnering post-secondary institutions, particularly West Georgia Technical College,” Jackson said.

Dual-enrolled students take classes through CEC that earn credit toward both high-school graduation and credit at WGTC. In many cases, the student also earns industry certification.

“About 240 Coweta high school students are dual-enrolled through West Georgia Technical in 2014, up from just over 200 students two years ago,” Jackson said. “Dual-enrollment is growing also as other colleges and universities increasingly partner with local high schools.”

The pilot process for the Harless certification at CEC is being conducted throughout the winter of 2014. There have been surveys and personal interviews of 530 students, 117 parents and 67 business partners, as well as instructors.

“There have been classroom evaluations using an advanced observation process and other research used to identify areas of strength and improvement at CEC,” Jackson said.

“The goal of the certification process is to ensure academic excellence at institutions like CEC, and that these schools have a continuous improvement process and are meeting the accountability requirements of their charter,” said Dr. Lucy Hayden, a field consultant with AdvancED who has organized CEC’s pilot certification process. “The goal is also to reduce duplication of effort in accrediting CEC and similar College and Career Academy charter schools.”

Hayden pointed out schools like CEC are designed to foster innovative academic practices and provide the highest possible educational value to students, industry and academic partners through collaborative partnerships.

Forming community-wide partnerships is one of the major missions of College and Career Academies. Doing so allows the academies “to meet the specific needs of their communities, students and businesses,” Jackson said.

Hayden and AdvancED are conducting a similar pilot certification process this year at Rockdale County Charter and Career Academy, which similarly to CEC serves students district-wide from a variety of base high schools. The goal is to have a fully developed certification process for all Georgia college and career academies by 2016.

TCSG oversees Georgia’s system of technical colleges, including West Georgia Technical College. TCSG initiated the move toward a common certifying process by establishing an Office of College and Career Transitions in 2011.

Jenny Williams, director of that office, has worked with AdvancED to develop the standards of the program being piloted this year and to incorporate standardized research protocols into the process.

“The main point of the process is to be able to have a standardized accountability process so that schools like CEC can show the good work that they are doing,” Williams said. “This is important to TCSG because of our own requirements, but the goal is to have a process that is equally beneficial and relevant to the academy and to our school system and industry partners.”

Harless was a strong supporter of the Coweta school system’s Centre for Performing and Visual Arts and an organizer of the Commission for Higher Education, which worked to get more college classes and programs to locate in Newnan.

For more than 30 years head of the Harless Performance Guild, Harless was known as a groundbreaking originator of many of the facets of human performance technology. His work was used by business, industry and the military — with such clients as Boeing, Microsoft and nuclear reactor firms.

He worked at Harvard University, the University of Michigan and Florida State University.

Harless wrote 22 nonfiction books. The PhD’s biggest selling book was “Turning Kids On and Off,” published in the 1970s. His one novel, “Black Warrior’s Curse,” drew on his Alabama roots. His father was police chief in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and his grandfather was a respected farmer.

The results of this winter’s certification process at CEC are due in the spring. The results will go to the TCSG board for review and approval, and will also be shared with local partners for review, including CEC’s board of directors and staff, the Coweta County Board of Education and school system leaders, and local business leaders.

The results — based on AdvancED accreditation standards and focused AdvancED assurances for college and career academies — will also be available to the Coweta County School System when the system seeks a renewal of AdvancED accreditation in 2016.

“I think Dr. Harless would appreciate the method being used in this certification, and I think it is a very fitting tribute that it is being named after him,” Hayden said.

“This really is a wonderful tribute to Joe Harless,” Whitlock said.

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