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Teacher pushes to expand A&Ts tech programs
MARYSVILLE Arts and Technology High teacher Mike Fitzpatrick doesnt want this story to be about him.
Im going to be retiring in a few years and I want this to outlive me, he said.
At least for now, though, the story cant be told without including him. In fact, if Fitzpatrick werent who he is, there would be no story.
A and T staff and students just moved into their new digs off 27th Avenue NE in December.
One of the Marysville School Districts several small learning communities, its focuses are evident in its name. With support from several quarters, Fitzpatrick has launched a push to expand the schools technology offerings far beyond the current program.
What Fitzpatrick wants is essentially a small, sort of demonstration factory, quite probably attached to the A and T school. Students would learn modern manufacturing techniques that could lead to high-paying jobs at everywhere from Boeing to smaller firms.
There is a screaming need for manufacturing people, Fitzpatrick said. And these are not dead-end jobs.
We already know we have quite a few manufacturers in our area that have a problem finding people to hire, said Marysville Superintendent Larry Nyland.
With Nylands backing, the school Board of Directors authorized Fitzpatrick to move forward with fundraising and continue to develop his plans.
I cant think of a program thats more appropriate to our community, Fitzpatrick said. He certainly has the backing of A and T School Principal Frank Redmond, who insists the plan is not out of reach.
I dont think its pie-in-the-sky thinking at all, Redmond said. I think its part of the reality of what we need to offer the students of this community.
Nyland said the manufacturing program wasnt included in the plans for the new A and T school because no one approached school officials with the idea in time to integrate it.
So far, no one has yet come up with a cost estimate or a timeline for the potential project. Both Fitzpatrick and others said the first step is to find some contacts with local businesses, to start and create the bonds with people who might end up helping with funding. Fitzpatrick already has a growing collection of endorsement letters from the representatives of local businesses. They sit in a folder next to a couple of pages of help wanted ads with literally dozens of ads circled, obviously representing jobs Fitzpatrick believes would well be within in reach of graduates of a worthy manufacturing program.
For now, Fitzpatrick teaches in small, somewhat limited shop room at Totem Middle School. There are the usual grinders, saws and so on. But Fitzpatrick insists his is not the same type of shop class the fathers of his students might have attended.
We have completely moved beyond woodworking and bird houses, he said.
Fitzpatrick said his students are expected to produce metal and wood pieces to exacting standards.
Any of this could be a landing gear beam on a 747, its the same process, said Fitzpatrick, a former Boeing employee himself.
As he talked to his students recently, Fitzpatrick noted on his whiteboard that manufacturing jobs can pay anywhere from $25 to $35 per hour.
Youre in a class like this to aim for this one, he said, pointing to the $35 figure.
One A and T student already has cashed in using Fitzpatricks manufacturing expertise. Nolan Erickson said his father gave him a design for a flowerpot holder. Instead of setting pots on shelves or hanging them from overhead, Ericksons creation allows plant lovers to place individual pots on walls or any other vertical surface. Using Fitzpatricks equipment and guidance, Erickson has made and sold 250 of the hangers to such stores as Bruce and Beckys Interiors and Judd and Black.
Hes also pocketed $3,000.
Theres nothing wrong with working with dirty hands, Fitzpatrick said, but he argues kids who can work with their hands are invisible to most school systems.
Fitzpatrick said programs similar to the one he proposes have been successful elsewhere, including in Granite Falls. Actually, Fitzpatrick helped put that program together as a volunteer.
Were a little behind, but well catch up, he said.