North Meck wants to be a model for CMS in career education

Career and technical education isn’t a new concept, but one high school hopes its twist on the program will become a model for how Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools can extend its reach to more students.

North Mecklenburg High is actively recruiting students in Huntersville, Cornelius and north Charlotte to its technical institute, now in its second year. Counselor and coordinator Todd Porter said the school-within-a-school is aimed at giving students a ticket to a job after high school or an easier path to a specialized college program.

A 2013 bond referendum included more than $8.6 million to create more technical institutes across the county by 2019.

THE DETAILS: North Mecklenburg’s technical institute has four programs, each with partners in the business community and each with the goal of giving students both a high school diploma and a professional certificate. Here’s a look at the four:


Automotive tech

. Students spend time in the shop learning about tools, brake service, computer diagnostics and other repairs. Companies such as Carquest, Napa Auto Parts and Griffin Tire have given input about what should be taught. The program sets students up for further classes at Central Piedmont Community College and becoming

Automotive Service Excellence




. Students operate a hair and nail salon that’s open to the public on Thursdays. By graduation, each person has at least 1,200 hours behind the chair. The program prepares students to earn a state license.


Culinary arts

. Students learn restaurant management and food preparation. Some students opt to complete


certification, and a number of them use it to jump into Johnson & Wales University’s culinary program.



. Students operate a greenhouse with everything from perennials to tropicals. A lot of the equipment was donated by Metrolina Greenhouse, and students are especially focused on “interiorscaping,” or landscaping indoors. School leaders said the business community finds it hard to find qualified people for those jobs. In the spring, students sell their vegetables and flowers to the public.

Inside North Meck High's greenhouse, part of their horticulture program.

A photo posted by Andrew Dunn (@andrewmdunn) on

WAIT, THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. Yes, these programs are available at other schools at the district. East Mecklenburg, Myers Park, Providence and South Mecklenburg high schools all have automotive programs, for instance.

Olympic High has also set up an advanced manufacturing and entrepreneurship school that’s sending students to companies like Siemens and Bosch Rexroth.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT HERE? The program at North Mecklenburg is the only one operated as a magnet school and that offers bus transportation to students districted for multiple schools, said CMS career and technical education director Jimmy Chancey.

It’s open to students who would normally go to Hopewell, Hough and Mallard Creek high schools, in addition to North Mecklenburg.

The program admits five students from each school at each grade level in each of the four programs. That equates to a capacity of 320 students. This year, the program’s second, there are 149 students enrolled.

Rising freshmen and sophomores are eligible to apply to the technical institute through the CMS magnet process. Rising juniors who are interested in the program can apply directly with the school.

Porter said he hopes to expand the program at North Mecklenburg before launching similar magnet institutes at other schools. Garinger, Independence and West Mecklenburg are all slated to receive money for technical institutes from the bond referendum.

“We would like to expand access as much as we can,” Chancey said.