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Career Education Center Ribbon-Cutting Celebrates On-Time, Under-Budget Facility

Career Education Center Ribbon-Cutting Celebrates On-Time, Under-Budget Facility

First new high school facility in 50 years will train students in career skills



ribbon cut

Community members gather with WFISD staff to cut the ribbon for the official opening of the new WFISD Career Education Center. From left: Vernon College Dusty Johnston, WFISD board members Bill Franklin, Elizabeth Yeager, Bob Payton, CEC Coordinator Michelle Wood, board member Mike Rucker, CEC Principal Synthia Kirby, WFISD Board President Dale Harvey, WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Henry Florsheim, Corgan’s Brett Sumrow, Arcadium’s Josh Miller, architect Gary Baker, and Sundt’s David Musch.






The glass doors to the tall, window-filled entry of the new Career Education Center swung open Tuesday, August 8, to 200 community members who came to celebrate the completion of WFISD’s first high school facility in 50 years.


Board members, city officials, Chamber of Commerce members, architects, contractors, WFISD employees and enthusiastic community supporters gathered for the CEC ribbon-cutting at 8:30 a.m.


The ribbon-cutting was followed by guided tours of the building that will house 26 career programs designed to prepare WFISD students for careers and further education after high school.


“This building is a combination of many hours of dedication and hard work by hundreds of people in our community,” said WFISD Board President Dale Harvey from the light-filled foyer inside the CEC entry. “The facility began as a vision about a decade ago because we saw the need to provide our community with skilled workers after graduation from high school. That vision came alive in 2015 with the passing of the $59.5 million bond issue. $35 million went to the construction of this, our Career Education Center. I know I speak on behalf of the entire school district when I say ‘thank you’ to the entire Wichita Falls community.”






Dale ribbon

WFISD Board President Dale Harvey addresses the 200 community members who gathered on the Career Education Center’s Learning Stair, the foyer’s focal point, at the August 8, 2017, ribbon-cutting.



Of WFISD’s 4,000 high school students, more than 1,300 will begin spending a portion of their school day at this state-of-the-art facility when school opens officially to students on Thursday, Aug. 17.


These students -- enrolled in programs like cosmetology, engineering, welding, culinary, marketing, health science and more – will become the workforce that the City of Wichita Falls will promote to companies looking for a new location.


“You can give a company $10 million, but if you can’t provide the workforce that company needs, they’re not coming. It’s that simple,” said Henry Florsheim, president and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry.




The Career Education Center is where Wichita Falls will “grow our own,” said Mr. Florsheim. It is a visible representation of the partnership that began four years ago between the Chamber, the City and WFISD. “That’s the right way to build a community,” he said.


David Farabee, chairman of the board for the Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd that he sees the CEC as a coveted lunch pass given to the community to empower its students to develop their dreams in high school as fully as possible. “The citizens gave this community a lunch pass to say, ‘There is no free lunch.’ They understand their kids, their grandkids, and the students of Wichita Falls need to go and get skills so they can provide for themselves and their families and all of us. Thank you to all of you and all the citizens of North Texas who voted yes for this school bond.”




cosmetology tour

Media, community members and WFISD employees got their first look at the 123,000 square foot facility during guided tours after the ribbon-cutting program. Here, cosmetology instructor Jessica Crosby Kenner demonstrates the use of a new shampoo bowl as Times Record News photographer Torin Halsey records the moment for the local newspaper.



The facility, designed by Gary Baker Architects and built by Trinity Hughes Construction, will serve students under the watchful eye of Principal Synthia Kirby, formerly principal at Carrigan Career Center.


“This facility is only as good as the programs and opportunities that are provided to students who are so fortunate to gather in its collaborative spaces,” said Mr. Kuhrt, “to relax in multiple flexible seating options, to congregate here on the Learning Stair, to see the views from the second story – wait ‘til you see those – to work with the most current machinery in this high-tech environment.”



cel kitchen  

Culinary instructor Deliese Nusser shows off the CEC’s restaurant-style kitchen where she will train future culinary workers. For the past 24 years, she has prepared students in a home-style kitchen at Rider High School that she affectionately dubbed her “Betty Crocker kitchen.”





The audience sat on the wood risers of the foyer’s focal point, its Learning Stair.



top of learning stair  

This view, from the top of the Learning Stair, shows the Career Education Center foyer and meeting room.



“Our commitment to you – the parents and WFISD community – is to help you reach your goals for your children,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “We can’t wait for May 29 when our seniors go out into the world with industry knowledge and certifications that this facility has helped them acquire.”


WFISD’s Michelle Wood coordinated the planning of both the Career Education Center and the 26 programs that fill it.


“Our goal for this community and this building is to let kids find passions and desires and things they never knew they always wanted,” she told the group. “Our logo is a compass. We want students to find their direction.”





The Career Education Center provides a grand entry with a light-filled space and a special terrazzo floor with a hint of sparkle.



The building will provide students with opportunities to pursue their interests and learn early if they love – or hate – their choices. “They may find out they didn’t like it. And you know what? We’ve done our job just as well, because we want them to enter into the workforce and have options,” said Mrs. Wood.  “Whether it’s to go straight to work, go on to a two-year technical school with our partners at Vernon College or whether it’s to go on to a four-year university, we want them to have a plan….We’re excited for showing off, not the building itself, but what our students can accomplish because of our labor of love.”


Guided tours introduced community members to the 26 programs that will be taught at the CEC. The building includes a full restaurant-style kitchen with accompanying bistro, an open-to-the-public cosmetology service, an auto repair service, a dog grooming area, a green room for video and film recording with state-of-the-art cameras and lighting, an engineering lab focused on robotics, and a construction lab with an outdoor pad that will be the site for students to build a house.





comfy chairs  

Community members try out the egg-like chairs in some of the CEC’s collaborative spaces. When you sit down into the chair, it surprises you by rocking back comfortably.



Agriculture students who participate in FFA may be the first students ever to sit at one of the new bistro tables. They grabbed some cookies and water bottles after participating in the guided tour. From left: Bailee Owen, Hanna Taylor and Cody Callahan.