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Beattie getting new image

| Thursday, July 7, 2005

The A.W. Beattie Vocational and Technical School is attempting to recast the school's image.

"We are trying to change our image from the hands-on, grease-monkey sort of person to an image of highly qualified people," said Kathy Bamberger, career and technical education director of Beattie for the past three years.

Known since the 1960s as a vocational school, the McCandless High School was renamed the A.W. Beattie Career Center on July 1. The new name better captures the wide range of programs the school offers, officials say.

The name change is the first at a vocational school in Allegheny County, and it reflects a nationwide trend to downplay the name vocational school, Bamberger said.

"Along with losing the term "vocational," we're trying to change our image to a more technical and career-oriented school," she said.

Beattie offers 17 programs, ranging from culinary arts and cosmetology to sports medicine and dental hygiene careers. Next year, the school is adding a program in robotics, a field used increasingly in construction, the auto industry and in health care.

High-end programs allow students to become more well-rounded and better prepared for their future, Bamberger said. In recent years, Beattie has also drawn students who are interested in computer technology, some of whom have gone on to study at Carnegie Mellon University, she said.

Cisco Academy, a comprehensive program designed to teach students Internet technology skills run by Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose Calif., is an example of the high-end programs offered at the school, Bamberger said. Cisco Systems is a company that has been prominent in advancing the development of IP -- the basic language to communicate over the Internet and private networks.

The program, started in 1998, allows students to become Cisco Certified Network Associates. About a dozen Beattie students take the course over a two-year period.

"It's a great program that not only prepares students through teaching but also gives them a lot of hands-on experience," said Craig Anderson, a client services representative for Cisco Academy. "We've had quite a few success stories through the Academy."

Nevertheless, automotive technology still is one of the most popular of the school's career offerings and one of the most technical, said Lynn McGrath, vice president of Beattie's board of directors.

"Some kids are seeing that college is not necessarily the answer -- you have college kids, after all, who can not get work when they finish school," McGrath said.

Auto technology students typically can get work as soon as they are out of school, Bamberger said.

Beattie, a school that serves nine northern Pittsburgh high schools -- Northgate, Avonworth, North Hills, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland, Hampton, Shaler Area, Fox Chapel Area and Deer Lakes -- can look good when compared to costly universities. Beattie's enrollment now is close to 800, up from just over 500 four years ago.

"We want to appeal to a broader range of students," Bamberger said.

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