The machine shop teacher left. The shop was slated for closure. The drama teacher was already making plans to grab the space for the theater program. And Bill Sunderland, the chair of the industrial arts program, decided to fight to keep the shop open.
“I dug in my heels,” Sunderland said. “I went to the principal, and explained the value of the shop to him, and he was very supportive.”
The principal decided to reopen the shop. That was 15 years ago. Today, the Watsonville High School machine shop continues to thrive in the Santa Cruz region of California, while the former principal who saved it, Jose Banda, is the superintendent of the Seattle Public Schools.
Banda, who joined the district last summer, will be recognized at a reception Thursday, March 7, 4:30-6 p.m. at the McKinstry Innovation Center in Georgetown. The event is open to the public. Food will be available. Admission is free. The event is cohosted by the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle, the Science Education program at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and the Education Foundation of the Associated General Contractors.
The theme of the reception is career-related learning in STEM – Science Technology Engineering and Math – and the reception will highlight several STEM-based programs now available in the Seattle Public Schools.
Those include Cleveland HS, which was reorganized over the past few years to focus on education in life sciences and engineering, and Roosevelt HS, where the CAD/Material Science program is nominated for national recognition by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. You can learn more about the Cleveland STEM program on YouTube if you look up “STEM Pays.”
The list also includes Rainier Beach HS, where the district reopened a mothballed machine shop last fall to provide instruction in Core Plus, the new state of Washington curriculum in advanced manufacturing. You can learn more about the Core Plus and Rainier Beach program in the January issue of Seattle Industry here.
The Rainier Beach initiative was already underway when Banda arrived in Seattle. But when Banda learned of the Core Plus effort, he told some local business people of his experience reopening the machine shop in Watsonville and the value of career-related, STEM-based learning. That exchange led to the March 7 reception and our call to Watsonville where we made contact with Bill Sunderland, who is now retired but remains passionate about the enduring value of vocational education.
Fifteen years after he and Superintendent Banda saved the Watsonville machine shop, Sunderland remains a major fan. “Jose is a cool guy,” he said. “He gets it. Tell him I said hello.”
Superintendent Banda might also be able to help us learn from his California experience.
California supports the Watsonville metal program and other programs like it through Regional Occupation Programs operated by county governments. ROPs help provide teachers and counselors for the high school programs. The Watsonville program is also “articulated” into the welding program at Cabrillo College so the high school students earn college credits for what they learn.
These sorts of supports are provided in Washington state only on a piecemeal basis – if at all. So, we would do well to replicate some aspects of the California system here. Maybe Superintendent Banda can help show us the way.
While the Banda reception is free, please RSVP to Tory Gering by phone 206-762-2470 or by email at email@example.com.