A new chapter in education begins at P-TECH

Submitted Photo Pictured are Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES' Director of Workforce Development Dr. Janeil Rey; Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Jean Schrader of Jamestown Community College; Retired Dunkirk Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Cerne; E2CCB Board of Education President Ron Catalano; Dunkirk CSD Director of Buildings, Grounds and Transportation Tim Abbey; Dunkirk CSD School Board President David D'Amico; Southwestern NY Regional Representative for Gov. Andrew Cuomo Lori Cornell; E2CCB Superintendent Dr. David O'Rourke; P-TECH student Michael Mitchell; Dunkirk Schools Superintendent Dr. James Tracy; P-TECH students Luke Peterson-Riedesel and Robert Goodrich; Community Liaison for Senator Young Kevin Muldowney and Principal Stephen Ruszczyk.

Special to The OBSERVER

Dozens of local dignitaries, politicians, partners, staff and students were on hand Wednesday for the building dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the WNY P-TECH STEM College & Career Academy on East Benton Street in Dunkirk. The new educational facility that houses the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program is the former School No. 6, which was built in 1915 and shuttered in 1997. The building underwent more than $8 million in renovations before it opened in late February.

Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES’ Director of Workforce Development Dr. Janeil Rey acted as mistress of ceremonies.

“We have an amazing group of teachers who have built a community of learning and collaboration,” she said to a fully packed gymnasium audience. “All of you are a part of the success of our students here.”

Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, began by thanking the partners in the room — the manufacturers, Dunkirk City Schools, BOCES and Jamestown Community College — and called P-TECH “one of the greatest public, private and educational partnerships I’ve ever seen come together.”

“You rallied around the needs of our manufacturers here in this region,” he said. “We still make things in Chautauqua County — we make billions of dollars’ worth of things. Over $24 billion in shipments go out of Western New York in the course of the year and these employers have a need for skilled trades, people who want to work hard, people who are creative, ambitious and want to have a career in manufacturing.”

Representatives from Athenex, Jamestown Community College were in the house along with Jehuu Caulcrick of Dream It Do It WNY and Justin Hanft with the Chautauqua County Education Coalition. Jacqueline Chiarot Phelps brought a proclamation from Congressman Tom Reed’s office, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional representative Lori Cornell — herself a graduate of the Dunkirk school system in 1994 — were also on hand to celebrate. Kevin Muldowney, the community liaison for State Sen. Cathy Young, noted his son is a P-TECH student and said he loves seeing all the school buses from different districts dropping off and picking up students.

Mayor Willie Rosas affirmed Dunkirk’s commitment to P-TECH.

“P-TECH is going to benefit us in the future,” said Rosas. “We have students coming here from all over the region. One of our biggest hurdles is that we don’t have a workforce that’s ready to take on available manufacturing jobs and that’s exactly what this program is designed to do.”

The opening of P-TECH — which is one of only 32 other P-TECHs in New York state — highlights the expanding educational opportunities in Chautauqua County and a community’s dedication to revitalizing itself one neighborhood at a time.

“This program will provide students with a set of skills to be career ready,” said Dr. James Tracey, superintendent of the Dunkirk City School District. “P-TECH provides the Western New York community with a capable and ready workforce.”

P-TECH currently has three cohorts of about 80 students from the Dunkirk, Fredonia, Brocton, Forestville, Jamestown, Holland, Cassadaga, Lake Shore, Bemus Point, Silver Creek, Eden, Gowanda, Frewsburg and Pine Valley school districts, plus more than a dozen staff members. Another 40 students are expected to begin in September 2018 as the school’s fourth cohort.

E2CCB District Superintendent Dr. David O’Rourke closed out the ceremony.

“Someone asked me earlier today ‘Who made this happen?’ At the heart of any school are its students and its staff. What’s different about P-TECH is our students come to school and know why they’re learning and they can connect it to authentic stuff that really ties into what they may be doing in their careers in the future. That’s really what we intended here and there are a lot of people who, together, made P-TECH happen. We’re grateful to all of you — especially our students who put themselves out there to learn differently and with relevance.”

Following the dedication and ribbon-cutting, the afternoon gave way for student-guided tours of the facility, a reception in the Commons Cafe, and an evening Community Open House that was open to the public. Hundreds of neighbors and friends turned out to explore the facility.