Dothan City Schools career-technical education director Chris Duke developed a philosophy critical to his new role while serving as a teacher and assistant principal.
“When I was working with students, I always had in the back of my mind ‘What’s your end goal? Where do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do?’” he said. “That’s what I would ask them.”
Duke’s position with DCS will be to help students achieve those very goals. He joins the system after serving as the first principal of the Geneva Regional Career Technical Center, widely known as “G-Tech.”
Duke, a Dothan native, said the prospect of coming home and joining a revamping school system interested him in the position – which exists through a partnership between the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wiregrass Foundation and DCS.
“I had an opportunity to come and be in the same town where my family is. I’m a family-first guy,” he said. “That was a large part of the draw but also the consolidation and the newness, the redefining of where Dothan City Schools is going allured me, as well. I enjoy being part of this process.”
DCS Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards has encouraged further development of career-tech programs as part of the system’s reconfiguration, and staffers have embraced the challenge. DCS will establish several new programs this year at the middle-school level and at Dothan Technology Center, which Principal Joey Meigs leads.
Among the new program offerings are a dual-enrollment automotive class with Wallace Community College and a dual-enrollment aviation maintenance technology program with the Alabama Aviation College in Ozark.
One other program that reaches both the middle and high schools excites Duke as well.
“We are starting a new computer science pathway at the Dothan Preparatory Academy for the (new) school year,” he said. “The governor of our state is focused on computer science, and I think personally think this is one of the areas where we’re getting ahead of the game.”
Another initiative that seeks to address future workforce needs will be logistics programs – a need given the dramatic increase in online shopping and orders, Duke said.
“We’re going to offer an introduction class at Dothan Preparatory Academy. We’re also going to offer two classes at DTC,” he said. “Here’s the cool part of this: we’re going to incorporate a live component for logistics. We’re going to allow our logistics students to begin working on inventory and delivery of materials that come into DTC.”
Conversations between educators and business leaders remain vital in ensuring schools produce what the workforce needs both now and in the future, said Duke, who will try to facilitate more of those discussions and interactions in his role.
Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dean Mitchell said he and other business leaders have embraced the idea.
“Chris has the vision, experience, and leadership skills to strengthen local career tech programs and create new partnerships with business. The Dothan Chamber and business community look forward to working with Chris to make sure that the technical, analytical, and soft skill levels of career tech students is at the highest level. There is a lot of work to be done, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with Chris and Dothan City Schools to get the job done for our local businesses.”
Duke’s position is a new full-time offering funded the first three years through a Wiregrass Foundation grant. Meigs had previously served as both the DTC principal and DCS’ career-technical education director.