King Career Center to transform into high school if board approves

  • King Career Center student Matt Cronquist competes for Culinary Arts judges in the 2017 Alaska State SkillsUSA championships. Cronquist took first place in Alaska and came in the top 10 in the nation at the National tournament in Louisville, Ky., last June. The Anchorage School District would transform the vocational school into a full-fledged high school if the school board approves it later this month. (Photo/Courtesy/King Career Center)

A new technical vocational high school planned for Anchorage could involve hundreds of new partnership opportunities for local businesses to help shape an emerging workforce.

Plans for the King Career Center, to be expanded and renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. Technical High School, are set to launch in August if approved Jan. 22 by the Anchorage School Board.

The move could give businesses a greater investment in increasing Alaska’s high school graduation rates. Currently, Anchorage is at 81.4 percent, up from 2016’s 79.7 percent.

That message came from Tam Agosti-Gisler, president of the Anchorage School Board, at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Make it Monday Forum Jan. 8.

The discussion centered on how programs are aimed at creating a more literate workforce and increasing Alaska high school graduation rates. Superintendent Deena Bishop, Best Beginning’s Direct Abby Hensley, United Way Director Michelle Brown and Agosti-Gisler talked about education programs that are making good strides for K-12.

Plans for a new high school are a bright spot, they agreed.

“One opportunity will include ‘speed mentoring’ for high school students (like speed dating) which gives the potential employer more information about whether it’s realistic to take an internship on,” Agosti-Gisler said. “Or it could be on-the-job training. This could be in real estate, engineering, city management. We already have an audiologist signed up and KTUU in the school for marketing, sales and television internships, for example.”

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, the district hopes to transform the King Career Center into a fulltime high school. After serving since 1974 as a vocational center for other high schools, the district plans to let KCC become an alternative high school and assume a new identity or “brand.”

A big selling point in these days of slashed school budgets is how the school will be funded, Agosti-Gisler said.

“Since KCC has never been an accredited stand-alone high school, its funding formula was based on the home school of the student,” she said.

But as a smaller high school established in its own right, its base student allocation fee or BSA will generate a higher percentage per student. This will generate an estimated $1.2 million more in funding per year than the school receives now.

“The formula is complicated, where larger schools receive less funding,” she said.

East High School is the largest school in the state and it receives the least amount per student in state. Dimond High school, by contrast, is funded at a higher BSA, she explained, due to a lower student population. King Technical High will be in the small school category, similar to a rural school.

“We will use the money to reinvest in the high school,” Agosti-Gisler said.

The process for approving these changes was first read in a proposal before the Anchorage School Board Jan. 8, with final reading and a vote set to take place Jan. 22. If the board approves, it becomes a new high school.

“There has been a lot of support, from the school board, the district and from the Education Commissioner (Michael Johnson),” Agosti-Gisler said.

KCC Principal Lou Pondolfino said students will be selected in a two-step process: their names must be chosen in a lottery system that can accept 300 students, and they will need to fill out an application.

“We are looking for juniors who have at least 11 credits and for seniors who have 16 credits,” Pondolfino said.

They also need to have a 90 percent attendance record and a 2.0 GPA or better.

“We have a caveat. If any one of the items are not met, then an interview can lead a student into the school,” Pondolfino said.

Students that are accepted will be signing up for their regular core classes in “a design-your-own-education format,” he said.

To design their own education, students and their parents, guardians or mentors create a Personal Learning Plan specifically for the student to prepare for college, trade school, apprenticeship, or to start on a career.

The high school will have space for its part-time students, 400 in the morning and 400 in the afternoon programs, plus the 300 fulltime high school juniors and seniors, Pondolfino said.

Currently, KCC offers 27 different programs, including aviation, auto and diesel maintenance, construction trades of welding, carpentry and electrician, personal nursing care, veterinary assistant, emergency medical technician and fire rescue.

“Our belief from being in the education profession and knowing what colleges are looking for is that every student will need some kind of post secondary ed,” Pondolfino said. In some cases, the student will graduate job-ready from the high school in some form, he added.

There will be an administrative learning curve in rolling out the high school academics, the principal anticipates.

“We don’t know what we don’t know yet,” he said.

The school district is excited by how the high school may contribute to its goal of “90 percent by 2020,” meaning increasing the current high school graduation rate from 81.4 percent in the district to 90 percent by the year 2020.

“This could impact graduation rates, getting kids who in 9th grade are disenfranchised, not buying into high school,” Agosti-Gisler said. “It would give them an alternative to aim for (in 11 grade) to get them on track.”

Naomi Klouda can be reached at

01/10/2018 - 10:09am