Career and technical education in Loudoun County is approaching a growth spurt of sorts.
As the demand for skilled labor and technology sector jobs continues to rise, C.S. Monroe Technology Center is being seen more and more as a national model for what secondary education ought to look like in the future. And it’s preparing to nearly double in size when it moves into the new Academies of Loudoun in the fall of 2018.
The school, Loudoun’s center for career and technical education, has tapped new leadership to guide it through its big transition.
Timothy Flynn started last month as Monroe’s third principal. He steps in following the retirement of Wagner Grier, who led the school for 13 years. During Grier’s tenure, Monroe added firefighter/EMT, health and medical sciences and computer engineering and design programs, earning it the designation as a Governor’s Career and Technical STEM Academy.
“I would like to sustain and build on that as we transition to the Academies of Loudoun and meet the new career needs of industry in Northern Virginia,” Flynn said.
Monroe’s 26 programs serve about 600 students, but has waiting lists several hundred students long. Decades ago, the school outgrew its facility on Childrens Center Road in Leesburg, and some of its programs now operate in other buildings throughout the county.
The vocational school been described as Loudoun’s best kept secret. But Flynn said word is getting out about the needs—of both students and businesses—that the school is filling. That became evident in 2014 when voters approved $115 million in bond funding to build the Academies of Loudoun. That campus, off Sycolin Road just south of the Dulles Greenway, will house an expanded version of Monroe and the Academy of Science, as well as a new Academy of Engineering and Technology.
Ahead of the academies’ opening, educators are meeting with business leaders to help design the programs to meet industry demands. For Monroe, most of the programs in place are already doing just that. But the academies will provide the space to do it on a larger scale, with room for more than 1,000 students, Flynn said.
“We definitely need more space for the 26 programs,” he said.
Flynn said he’s had employers in the HVAC, welding and computer sciences industries approach him about hiring students right out of high school. “I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘listen, I have this many jobs I need to fill right now,’” he said. “The needs within the industry are expansive.”
Wagner, who sits on a committee to help with Monroe’s transition, said the new space will provide space needed to meet those growing needs. “There’s a huge shortage in skilled labor, and there’s been a shortage for quite a number of years,” he said. For that reason, Monroe is now being seen as one of Loudoun’s premier programs, he added. “Monroe broke ground in a lot of areas, but didn’t get the attention. … Now, I think it will be a focal point of the Academies of Loudoun.”
Flynn agreed that it’s an exciting time to work in career and technical education. Many in the school system’s administration office expected Flynn to go on to fill an assistant superintendent role. In 2011, he was named Loudoun County’s Principal of the Year when he worked at Belmont Ridge Middle School. From there, he became the school system’s Director of Instructional Services.
But, he said, leading Monroe has been a professional goal of his for a long time. His father was a contractor and carpenter, which helped propel him to work as a career assessor and a vocational rehabilitation counselor before he started with Loudoun County Public Schools.
“I’ve loved every job I’ve had … but my passion has always been creating career pathways and options for students within a K-12 environment, and Monroe does that better than any place,” he said.
Monroe allows students to find and pursue their passion, and he wants to be a part of that. “Some of the highlights of my career have been the last few days, watching kids do amazing things and just come to life because they created something, whether it was a concrete block wall or a kitchen design,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”
Watch a video on Timothy Flynn produced by C.S. Monroe Technology students in partnership with CPTV.