John Honey and Chuck Lee pose outside the CTEC main entrance. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

John Honey and Chuck Lee pose outside the CTEC main entrance. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

John Honey and Chuck Lee are used to the start of a school year.

After all, the two men have about 70 years of experience in the education field. Honey was principal at McNary High School until his current gig, while Lee recently won his third term on the Salem-Keizer School Board.

But this is a little different.

The two veteran educators have been putting together the school district’s new Career Technical Education Center in the former Neilsen Manufacturing building at 3501 Portland Road NE in Salem. Honey is principal of CTEC, while Lee is president of the Mountain West Career Technical Institute. Mountain West entered into a partnership with the school district to develop and operate CTEC.

When CTEC opens next month there will be 180 students – 42 of whom are MHS students – and two programs: manufacturing and construction.

Lee and Honey are scrambling to get the building ready. A prime example was seen Monday as Keizer City Councilors and several citizens came for a tour: the dead brown grass was being spray painted green.

“When we’re at capacity we’ll have 10 programs, 1200 kids and 65 staff members,” Honey said, noting that is expected to happen in five years, with two programs added each year. “This will never be a school; it will be a program. Students will never get diplomas from here.”

Instead, juniors and seniors in the program will still be enrolled in their regular high schools. A CTEC bus will provide transportation. Students will spend two days a week taking classes at the CTEC location, but will still be able to participate in regular school activities as well.

“We want those McNary High School kids to do football, cheerleading, French or anything else at school,” Honey said. “On the other days they’ll come here and get what no kids in the Salem-Keizer area have ever gotten.”

While there are plenty of skill centers around, Honey said the CTEC difference is students will learn from people with industry experience – who have also earned teaching degrees – how to tie everything together, from vocational classes to applied math to hands-on experience.

“This supports entry into the workforce,” Honey said. “Employers get better employees. We’re moving away from the mindset of every kid must go to college and then go to work. Now they can get ready for both. They’ll better understand how things are built.”

Larry Tokarski with Mountain West brought Lee on board to help put the program together. In addition to his school board experience (and city council before that), Lee was formerly the longtime president of Blanchet Catholic School.

“Larry really had this vision,” Lee said. “He’s invested a lot to make it happen. Larry hired me to give kids hope. There are an incredible number of businesses starving for a qualified work force. What we’re doing here is building a work force to keep businesses here and to help bring new businesses here.”

As an example, Lee said he talked to a business owner in Donald in the manufacturing business.

“The guy said he could hire 100 people right now if he could find them,” Lee said. “We’ve always told kids they have to go to college to be successful. Well, this guy in Donald is paying a welder $85,000 a year.”

Jeremy Mills was among those on Monday’s tour.

“It’s an amazing project,” Mills said. “This is a great opportunity for kids to get hands-on experience.”

Mayor Cathy Clark saw the inside of the facility for the first time.

“It meets the needs for both students and industry,” Clark said. “It’s the perfect blend of private and public putting together something that will be so meaningful.”