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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #21-04
January 14, 2021
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Congratulates Woodlake High School for $100,000 Award as Finalist in U.S. Department of Education’s Rural Tech Project

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent Tony Thurmond today congratulated Woodlake High School in Woodlake, California, which the U.S. Department of Education recently named as a finalist for their submission to the Rural Tech Project, a national initiative to advance technology education, support rural educators, and prepare students for the careers of today and tomorrow. Woodlake High was one of five schools nationwide recognized for the first phase of the tech project and received a cash award of $100,000.

“I am so proud to see a California school receive national recognition for a program that focuses on developing skills with lifelong applications and fostering future career opportunities for our students,” said Thurmond. “Career technical education programs, like this outstanding program at Woodlake High School, are becoming increasingly valuable in order to meet the demands of the 21st century workplace, prepare students for a smooth transition into higher education, and ensure our graduates successfully compete in the global community.”

Woodlake High School designed an online aviation program for the tech project that will prepare students for regional careers or post-secondary degrees. Students will learn drone operations, geometry, and aerodynamic principles and apply that knowledge through in-person drone flights and simulator work. Woodlake High School Assistant Principal Rudy Cardona led the school’s efforts in designing the application with assistance from Principal Mike Burchett and Coordinator of College and Career Programs Carmita Pena.

Submissions for the project were collected from June to October. During that time period, the U.S. Department of Education invited rural high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning. The Rural Tech Project received 63 proposals from teams across 34 states. Entrants proposed programs focusing on a range of technology skills—from computer science and cybersecurity to robotics and aviation.

Woodlake High and the other four finalist teams were recommended by a judging panel that included experts from the Austin Peay State University Center for Rural Education, Ford Next Generation Learning, The Franklin Institute, IBM, Pine Springs Preparatory Academy, and the University of Arkansas.

During Phase 2 of the challenge, from January to July 2021, the finalist teams will develop detailed program plans and build partnerships before programs launch. The Rural Tech Project will provide assistance, expert mentorship, and access to virtual resources as teams plan, run, and refine their programs for two academic years. Each finalist team will be supported by a community engagement manager who will assist with on-the-ground setup, implementation, and evaluation of the program. The teams will document their outcomes and learnings in a final submission in summer 2023, with one team receiving a grand prize of an additional $100,000.

More information can be found on the Rural Tech Project website External link opens in new window or tab..

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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