C4 board prepares for visit by Asa

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Connect 4 program will have a special guest speaker for its official ribbon cutting in October: Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1, at the Carroll County Career Center in Berryville. Hutchinson will serve as the featured speaker for the event, which will introduce leaders of local industry and community members to the new high-tech training facility built for Carroll County students and adults seeking to enhance their work skills. Lunch and refreshments will follow the ceremony.

The Connect 4 board of directions discussed preparations for the grand opening Wednesday. Chirs Claybaker, economic development director for Berryville, said the Berryville School District will bring about 100 chairs to the career center, and the city of Berryville will take care of the tables and chairs for outside seating.

“We will do tables outside if people want to eat out there,” he said.

Claybaker said there will be a limited number of tickets available for the event, so those interested in attending will need to RSVP no later than 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in order to reserve a ticket. RSVPs can be made by calling 870-423-3704.

Board member Chad Wilson recommended the board advertise equipment and technology needs for the career center in the invitations sent out to local industry leaders.

“They need to know that,” Wilson said. “People won’t give donations until they see what the needs are.”

While not everyone will make donations, Wilson said some businesses will once they see what the Connect 4 program is lacking.

Connect 4 director James Knight also updated the board on the program’s progress.

“We’re about a quarter of the way through our first book, the common core,” he said. “I think it’s going really well with all the students that are here. We dropped from 27 to 19, but it seems like everyone here now is gung-ho about the program.”

Knight continued, “I was asked by two guys in the morning group if I wanted to consider coming in on a Saturday once a month and working with them strictly in the shop so they can get some extra time back there. I’ve never been approached and asked to come in on a Saturday, by a student, especially in high school.”

He said he was going to ask the afternoon class about the idea and see if he could work out a half-day on a Saturday each month.

Knight said the students had breezed through the construction math portion of the curriculum.

“Whatever the math teachers are doing in math, give them a pat on the back,” he said. “We breezed through the construction math faster than I’ve ever seen it happen before. All I had to do was remind them of a couple formulas we use generally in construction.”

Wilson asked what the breakdown of enrollment was for the three school districts. Of the 19 students, Knight said two were from Eureka Springs, nine were from Green Forest and eight were from Berryville.

“Im going to try to push some promotion in Eureka Springs,” Knight said. “Maybe do some banners. Im going to get with [Superintendent] Bryan Pruitt and see if he and his counselors have any ideas to boost enrollment from their district.”

Board president Rodney Ellis said the district counselors will get a better feel for the program and facility when they visit for the ribbon-cutting on Oct. 1 and will be able to promote Connect 4 better for their students.

“Ideally, we’ll have tours as we progress in the fall,” Ellis said, “and especially when you get in the spring so kids can see it. Seeing is believing.”

Knight said he has received calls from different people interesting in hiring some of the students once they complete the program.

“They know if we train somebody they’re going to show up and work, so that’s a plus,” he said. “The jobs are going to be there, and our guys are going to be ready for it.”

Through the core curriculum, Ellis said students will get exposure to OSHA 10 and maybe OSHA 30.

“All these things are key to industry that people want to pay for,” he said. “Hopefully, forklift certifications will come into some of that.”

Claybaker said one problem is that people still aren’t familiar with the Connect 4 program.

“People are just starting to realize the edge of what we’ve got out here,” he said. “The information is not getting through to everybody. I think when the governor comes here that will be a major eye-opener for people. When these kids start getting jobs and are making $30,000 to $40,000 a year, I think that will get some of their attention.”

“That’s what sells any program,” Knight said. “When you’re getting a job or you’re getting something out of it for the time that you spent, it’s helping you learn to stand on your own two feet.”

Administrative assistant Jennifer Winkle updated the board on the technology for the career center. She said they got the time cards done so the students can now clock in and clock out like they would at a job.

“The cameras are all up and functioning,” she said. “On the computer, I can look at 10 all at once and see what’s going on, stop anything and report anything. We’ve got the sign up. We just need to connect it with something in my office, and I can do a webinar to figure out how to program it.”

“We got a digital sign out here that’s video-capable,” Ellis said. “It shows text on it. We’ve got a night school going on, so we can put that up. We want to do some different things to draw attention to the school.”

He said Winkle is also working on grant paperwork to hopefully reimburse the Connect 4 program for some of the equipment and technology purchase.

“We’ve just about got it ready to send out,” Ellis said. “We’ve tried to get all $138,000 reimbursed. The due date is Nov. 1, but we’re going to try to get it sent out early.”

Pruitt also announced that the meeting was the one-year anniversary of the board’s foundation. He asked if they wanted to reorganize the board at all.

The board voted to have Winkle take over as secretary for the meetings.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3.

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