Schools receive computer science grant

Mecklenburg County Public Schools has been selected by Microsoft to receive the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) AP Computer Science Grant. Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols and his team are in the process of finalizing the agreement with Microsoft by May 12.

Supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, this grant will open doors for Mecklenburg County Public Schools to offer students, first at Bluestone High School and later at Park View High School, two distinct tracks for careers in advanced technology.

“The first tract is for those who choose to pursue cyber security, hardware support and computer application programs through the credentialing options we have directly with business and industry and with the community college and higher education center,” Nichols said. “These credentials open vitally important doors to jobs at the local data centers and entry level technician jobs throughout the nation.”

The second tract is for those students who wish to learn advanced computer coding language that will open doors for jobs writing software.

“This requires a strong foundation in advanced placement (AP) computer science in high school that will lead to advanced degrees in computer science at university,” Nichols said. “This grant will open the doors for us to offer this opportunity to our students.”

The program will begin at Bluestone High School, which already has a robotics program and more students prepared to immediately pursue the program

“We will make this available to students at Park View as we solidify the requirements of the process,” Nichols said. He noted he hopes the program will be implemented at Park View within three years.

Bluestone High School teacher Amanda Bowen has been selected as the local teacher to work with this program because she has the appropriate license to teach computer science, as well as a master’s degree and experience working with distance education classes.

The focus of the grant is to provide mentors to teachers and students who will provide instruction and support. These mentors are computer scientists who are working for advanced technology firms and are willing to donate time with computer science classes.

“Microsoft supports this program from the perspective that high schools cannot afford to pay these persons enough money to be teachers when they are making six-figure salaries at their jobs,” Nichols said. “Yet we need their expertise to begin training the students at this early level.”

As part of the TEALS program, volunteers from the computer science or software engineering fields are needed to participate in the program. Along with the help of the TEALS program implementation team, Mecklenburg County Public Schools will be actively recruiting, training, mentoring and placing volunteers who have a passion for computer science. These computer science experts will participate in a team-teaching style format alongside Bowen.

If you or someone you know works or has worked in the computer science or software engineering field and would be willing to volunteer time toward participating in this exciting educational opportunity for Mecklenburg County students and the community, contact Gary Cifers, CTE coordinator, at (434) 738-6111, ext. 1031 or via email at gcifers@mcpsweb.org.

For more information on the TEALS program, visit http://tealsk12.org.