A passion for science had Jeremy Ward, principal of Duncan Polytechnical High School, thinking about a career in wildlife biology when he entered college. But upon second review Ward decided the profession, with its limited number of jobs and impractical fit for someone wanting a family, wasn’t for him. With the “powerful example” set by his teacher parents who “love what they do,” Ward decided to go into the family business.
With such a careful focus on his own career, Ward is a natural fit to helm a magnet school designed to prepare students for careers right after graduation.
At a glance: Duncan offers several career pathways to its roughly 1,000 students in grades 9-12. Currently, the pathways offered are agriculture, business, construction, education, healthcare and transportation. However, Ward says the school’s pathways are currently being restructured, with several, like business, education and ag, moving to other schools, while other’s such as healthcare and transportation are being expanded. Ward says the school will soon be composed of two broad “academies,” industrial arts and healthcare, that will include several related pathways.
As a magnet school, kids must apply, but all are accepted unless there is particularly high demand. In grades 9 and 10, students do general course work within their pathways, and in grades 11 and 12 their coursework becomes more focused, and can include job-site work.
Here, Ward talks about the “promise of Duncan,” why his students are more engaged in their coursework than students at traditional public high schools and how Duncan fosters campus culture without pep rallies and sports teams.