• CTE Month - February 2024

  • February is National Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. Charleston County School District recognizes and celebrates CTE Month® to raise awareness of CTE's role in preparing students for careers and college.

    In February 2023, CCSD recognized various career and technological opportunities across the district to honor the theme of "Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow."

  • RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2024

    St Johns FireSt. John’s High School was recently gifted with a fire engine from the City of Charleston Fire Department (CFD) for use in their new firefighting course. The CFD has generously made this donation to the school so the students in the class can gain valuable hands-on, working knowledge. 

    The Emergency and Fire Management Services program is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) course and is the first of its kind in Charleston County School District (CCSD). The course prepares students for entry-level employment in the field of firefighting, the South Carolina Fire Academy certification, and higher educational opportunities.

    Taught by Nate Murtaugh, this program enables students to become certified firefighters, eligible to go straight into the firefighting workforce. The course is a national certification allowing a student the opportunity to go anywhere in the country.

    “This donation is huge for our program,” said Murtaugh. “Chief [Dan] Curia has been with me every step of the way in developing this program and he recognizes the need for this program. This donation is a tremendous opportunity for the program and the community as a whole.”

    “The City of Charleston Fire Department upgrades our apparatus on a regular schedule and it just made sense to donate this engine to St. John’s as a teaching tool,” said Curia. “If we train locally, recruits are more apt to stay here in Charleston. We want to hire local talent because that’s who will best serve the community because they have a commitment to their community.”

    Murtaugh agreed. He said from his experience that employee turnover in agencies is less likely if individuals who serve are from the communities they serve.

    “Public servants show increased ownership in their commitment when it involves their hometown,” said Murtaugh. “Individuals drawn to this kind of work naturally want to help people, especially when it’s their neighbors.”

    Murtaugh will be working with local agencies such as St. Paul's Fire District, The City of Charleston Fire Department, and the St. John's Fire District to provide additional training opportunities to his students.

    An instructor and a mentor

    Murtaugh had a 23-year career in the fire service, serving in multiple roles from firefighter to chief of training. He spent the last 20 years as a certified South Carolina Fire Academy Fire Instructor, teaching classes from Firefighter, Fire

    Instructor, Water Rescue, Fire Officer, and other specialized courses.

    Murtaugh started coaching football and softball at St. John’s nine years ago. Through the years, he became part of the St. John’s family. When the idea for the class was first presented, then Principal Steve Larson and CCSD administrators knew right away they had a groundbreaking concept that could be led by an established leader in the fire services industry. 

    According to current Principal Jermaine Joyner the process was not easy. 

    “It has been two years in the making,” explained Joyner. “When I became Principal a year and a half ago, I believed in the concept, but there were a lot of hurdles that we had to jump through like securing an official sponsor (St. Paul's Fire Dept.), getting Memos of Understanding signed, and helping Mr. Murtaugh meet all the requirements he needed to be the instructor.”  

    One of his football players, Jerrod Duncan knew he needed a plan if his dreams of professional football did not work out. With encouragement from Murtaugh, he joined the program.

    “Firefighting is a tough job but the reward is saving lives and property,’ said Duncan. “Being the first in the district to get to complete this program will also be something I remember for the rest of my life. I’ll be one of the originals.”

    Being an instructor came naturally to Murtaugh. He is no stranger to the growing need to recruit young professionals to the industry.

    “My early interactions with emergency service personnel had a tremendous impact on my future,” said Murtaugh. “I’ve enjoyed a rewarding career in the fire service and now have the opportunity to open doors for Lowcountry students through this program.”

    “Being first with anything is special”

    Murtaugh said CCSD has been supportive in allowing him to develop the course programs, curriculum, and certification opportunities. Students will have the opportunity to earn the following certifications:

    • NFPA Firefighter I & II

    • NFPA Hazardous Material Awareness

    • NFPA Hazardous Materials Operations

    • SCFA Auto Extrication

    • ASHI Emergency Medical Responder

    • ASHI BLS CPR for the Professional Rescuer

    • National Incident Management System (NIMS) 100, 200, 700, and 800

    Junior Marissa Ramirez said the program is a great opportunity to learn about potential career paths.

    “I am interested in a career that will allow me to help people,” said Ramirez. “In this course, we are learning about the medical aspects of first response. It is more than just the fire service. Additionally, I think everything I learn in this program will prepare me for any life situation.”

    “There is a need in South Carolina to recruit individuals to the fire service and medical first responder positions,” said Murtaugh. “This course is about more than just fire response. Students will learn about the roles that emergency medical responders play and much more.”

    Murtaugh has already established relationships with Lowcountry fire departments, and throughout the 90-day semester, students will tour those facilities, train with those agencies, and interact with the men and women who make up those departments.

    “CCSD has given me unconditional support and I am grateful to show the community what our students can do,” said Murtaugh. “This falls in line with the district’s mission of ensuring college or career readiness. Some students want to go straight to work and this is a pipeline to do just that. Additionally, many agencies offer tuition reimbursement programs where employees can earn advanced degrees all while working full time.”

    Duncan said he was excited when he looked outside the front doors of St. John’s and saw the fire engine.

    “It is a pure indication the local fire agencies care about us, and we won’t let them down,” said Duncan. “This is a groundbreaking course for our school and I am committed to staying focused and locked in.”

    Murtaugh hopes to see the program modeled across the district.

    “The fire service is one big family and always there to assist,” said Murtaugh. “Local agencies have committed their support to my students because they want to recruit them into their highly skilled, high-demand agencies. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

    Chief Curia has confidence that Murtaugh’s students will complete the program knowing all they need to know to be successful firefighters.

    “Under Murtaugh’s leadership, these students will also leave with a deeper understanding of being a community servant, keeping the community’s best interest in mind, which will create a better, safer Charleston,” added Curia.


  • RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2024

    The West Ashley Center for Advanced Studies (WACAS) recently celebrated their first-ever certified pipe welders. Students Aden Jones and Crawford Helms were recognized last month for successfully passing the national test. They are students in Andrew Dock’s Welding Technology program at the WACAS. Jones and Helms are the first students in Charleston County School District (CCSD) to become certified pipe welders and the youngest in the state.

    According to Dock, this is a milestone accomplishment for these students.

    “We are so proud of these young men as well as Mr. Dock for all their hard work and dedication to achieve this nationally recognized certification,” added Principal Dale Metzger. “This will enable them to assume their place in the high-demand, high-salaried industrial workforce immediately after graduating high school.” 

    According to Dock, the Welding Technology program does not yet offer the pipe welding certification. 

    “These boys went out on their own to receive the national certification,” said Dock. “That’s quite an accomplishment.”

    The success of the program and the drive that Dock sees in his students has motivated him to reach out to the South Carolina State Department of Education and submit the Industry Certification Application to be able to give the students credit for the certifications that they are earning.

    Helms is a senior at West Ashley High School and because of his advancement in the Welding Technology program at the CAS, he has been appointed as a teacher assistant (TA). He mentors students in the early stages of the program and assists as needed to Dock.

    “After just two semesters I was hooked,” said Helms. “I’ve developed a passion for this trade and enjoyed learning about the tools and perfection required to complete a project successfully. It gives me a sense of satisfaction.”

    West Ashley CASHelms’ classmate Frankie Ramirez is chasing his pipe welder’s certification, hoping to follow his friend’s example. He is in Welder 3 and said his experience in the program will give him an advantage when applying for jobs.

    Classroom to career

    Upon graduation, Helms will head to Nucor Steel where he will start work as a welder at Thompson Pipe. 

    “I’m excited to put my newfound passion to work,” said Helms.

    There are six courses in the program to provide students with the skills and knowledge to effectively perform cutting and welding applications used in the construction industry or in advanced manufacturing. Courses include basic welding, structural welding, advanced welding, and teacher’s aide. 

    According to Dock, students who go straight into the workforce with their pipe welding certification can earn upwards of $32 an hour. 

    “It means a lot to me to be able to prepare these students to go straight into the workforce,” said Dock. “There were people in my life who coached and mentored me and prepared me for a very rewarding career. I am glad to be able to give back.”

    Dock worked for six years in the industry before he came to CCSD at just 24 years old.

    “I wanted to be like my welding teacher Gene Cribb,” said Dock. “I knew I could teach the next generation everything they need to know about this industry. I was lucky I got the call to come to West Ashley, and maybe a little faith played into that as well.”

    Ramirez researched the industry and realized this could be a lucrative career path. He soon learned the program and his instructor could help him lock in his future.

    “I appreciate this class,” said Ramirez. “Dock and the teacher assistants have helped me learn through a hands-on approach. I really look up to [Crawford] and I want to be like him, one day working as a TA.”

    While Dock is teaching students the basics, he eases them into technical college-level instruction.

    “That approach allows my students to grow and mature so that when they leave here they are confident in their work and in the workplace,” said Dock. “They are able to take instruction from leaders; they are able to go into jobs needed in our community.”

    Helms said Dock’s level of knowledge is impressive.

    “This is a very technical skill to learn,” said Helms. “From the math and measuring components to the actual welding piece, it can be complicated.”

    Helms added that Dock’s teaching style has made learning fun.

    “This is an elective course, so some students take it to have the credits,” explained Helms. “I took it to prepare for my future and I have taken it very seriously. My teacher set me up for success and I took full advantage of that.”

    The CAS pays for students to earn their certification, which Dock explains is another incentive to work hard and get to the next level.

    “This is not an easy program,” said Ramirez. “It is difficult, but with support from Dock and my classmates, I am learning everything I need to know to find employment when I graduate.

    Dock said that several certified students attempted the advanced pipe welding test, but were not successful, but will be going back in a few weeks to try it again. 

    “To put it into perspective, one student failed by 1/32 of an inch,” said Dock. “That's how difficult this test is.”

    Dock’s seniors all have a job lined up or are heading to college, and he is very proud of that.

    “Companies in this area know that there are good welders coming out of this program,” said Dock. “They’re looking to hire my students and that’s a compliment to the program and the hard work these students put in.”

    In addition to fulfilling his dream of being an instructor, Dock said the WACAS has allowed him to earn his AWS CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) credential which is a very prestigious credential. 

    “The test has roughly an 80% fail rate,” said Dock. “Having the ability to earn my CWI has put me 12 years ahead of where I thought I would be at this age.”


  • Charleston County School District (CCSD) students with dreams of going into the film industry or the field of communications can earn their shot if they enroll in Media Technology courses at Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies. Under the leadership of instructor James Dean, Media Technology students are creating, achieving, and living out their dreams.

    The course has seen increased enrollment since its inception. Students are learning basic camera angles, video editing, still photography, Photoshop, Adobe Premier, and more in a state-of-the-art facility that rivals area television stations.

    Cooper River CASDean’s nearly 25-year career positioned him perfectly for this role where his students look forward to putting their skills to work. When not in the studio, editing bay, or the classroom, students can be found around campus documenting events just like a local news crew would do. Those moments are all produced and aired during the student-run news and weather shows.

    The fun does not end there. Students are treated to field trips at local TV and radio stations where they interact and connect with industry leaders and on-air personalities. 

    “As a veteran in the industry, I know first-hand how important this introductory course is to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the industry,” said Dean. “I love this field of work and I want my students to see all it has to offer. Many of my students want to become script writers, directors, and producers because of the experiences they have had in our professional studios.”

    Learning about everything that goes on behind the scenes is what interested Coriyona Singleton, an eleventh-grader at North Charleston High School (NCHS).

    “I enjoy the editing process and would like to become a director one day,” said Singleton. “So much goes into camera angles and getting that perfect shot. It is time-consuming, but the end result is the reward.”

    In addition to learning the technical side of media technology, students are learning soft skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and independent thinking. Using various types of technology and multiple learning strategies, students participate in a variety of video projects such as the basic skills, training, and ethics of broadcast news and photojournalism. This course covers the challenges faced by multimedia journalists working with still photos, audio, video, and text. 

    Singleton likes the challenge of learning all aspects of media technology.

    “This class is about way more than just taking pictures,” said Singleton. “It’s unique in that we are allowed and encouraged to use this expensive, state-of-the-art equipment.”

    Students use industry-standard software and tools. 

    “This class is very hands-on,” Dean explained. “From day one the students are holding a camera and handling equipment so that they can familiarize themselves with the technology.”

    Students are encouraged to experiment with the equipment so that their work can be analyzed. This is when the learning begins. Dean demonstrates proper and creative techniques to students so they can try them in subsequent projects.

    “Little by little you can see improvement as they become more comfortable with the equipment,” said Dean. “The students in this class are excited to be here and you can see that in their work.”

    Olivia Salvaggio is an eleventh grader at NCHS and plans on majoring in art when she attends college. Media Technology is a compliment to her passion.

    “I am learning about the tools I can utilize in art photography,” said Salvaggio. “I struggled with editing at the beginning, but I have come a long way. Using Adobe Photoshop and Premier has improved my digital media skills.”

    Students earn an industry-level certification at the end of each of the four-course programs including OSHA-10, Adobe Photoshop, Premier, and FAA Trust Certification for operating a drone. They also leave with a network of mentors, connections, and opportunities for job shadowing and internships. These benefits have helped with the recruitment and growth of the program. Dean has 28 students this semester. Word of mouth and tour groups have also inspired students to enroll.

    “I highly recommend taking this program if you intend to study any form of media or communication in college,” said Singleton. “We’re ahead of the curve when it comes to learning the basics. Not only are we learning from the best instructors but also from local industry leaders.”

    Principal Vanessa Brown said that the Media Technology program is one of the most popular programs at Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies. 

    “It is our mission to ensure our students are prepared and ready to make decisions regarding their careers,” said Brown. “The program here is aligned with all two and four-year colleges in South Carolina. Our students will be ready to begin their careers in media technology.”

    Both Salvaggio and Singleton agree that Dean has a passion for what he teaches.

    “He knows what he’s teaching,” said Salvaggio. “He knows the equipment, he knows the shortcuts, and he knows a workaround for almost anything. His passion for the work shows in everything he does with us, including helping us with our creative visions.”

    Students are required to conceptualize projects for commercial advertisements, public service announcements, short films, how-to videos and other school and community service-driven projects using photography and video editing skills learned. Dean’s program boasts students who have won awards doing these very things.

    “Mr. Dean has created a comfortable environment where we are treated like young adults,” added Salvaggio. “This is my happy place.”


  • RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2024

    When students complete Denise Duggan’s Clinical Studies course at East Cooper Center for Advanced Studies, they have the opportunity to be certified nursing assistants and eligible to go straight into the medical workforce. The course also gives them an advantage should they choose to continue studies in a related medical field.

    Health Science Clinical Study is a course that guides students to make connections between the classroom and the healthcare industry through clinical experiences and activities. This course provides for further development and application of knowledge and skills common to a wide variety of healthcare professions. 

    Duggan spent her 30-year medical career working in burn centers, private practice, and everything in between. She is intimately familiar with how demanding the profession is, and acutely aware of how intense the coursework is in college.

    Clinical Studies“In this class, I require my students to go above and beyond what the course requires because I want to give them the rigor they will face in college,” said Duggan. “They will need these study skills to be successful at the next learning level.”

    What the students in Duggan’s class enjoy are the real-life experiences provided.

    Keira Golson, a senior at Wando High School, said that visiting the area nursing homes and working with the patients has allowed her to take what she has learned in her textbooks and lectures and apply them.

    “The hands-on interaction is what I enjoy most,” said Golson. “I am inspired by my grandmother and aunt, who are both nurses, to pursue this path. These real-life scenarios will allow me to decide if this is truly what I want to do with my future.”

    Ava Funkhouser is also a senior at Wando. Her dream is to be an OBGYN, which requires 1,000 practicum hours in the healthcare field. This course will allow her to earn some of those hours before even going to college.

    “I realize that getting to go to our local nursing homes and work with patients is an opportunity that not everyone gets to enjoy,” said Funkhouser. “It has been incredibly rewarding to work with these individuals.”

    According to Duggan, site visits include real people and real situations.

    “This is not a job shadowing opportunity,” explained Duggan. “They are learning by doing the actual job.”

    In class, the students learn about catheter care, denture cleaning, walking assistance, transfers from a wheelchair to a bed or bedpan, taking vitals, bed baths, dressing, and feeding.

    “I enjoy getting to know the residents and assisting them,” said Golson. “I think they enjoy our company, as well. They offer advice on life, and when we leave, they have a smile on their face.”

    On the other hand, Golson said, it is hard for her to watch a patient struggle with everyday activities that healthy individuals take for granted.

    “Knowing that my job is to assist makes me feel proud,” Golson added.

    Funkhouser said that the experience puts life into perspective.

    “The residents take pride in the little things that they are still able to do and accomplish,” said Funkhouser. “They also appreciate our assistance very much.”

    Golson likes the challenge that the Health Studies program has afforded her.

    “The teachers are great and bring a lot of knowledge to the curriculum,” said Golson. “Their previous careers in the healthcare field enabled them to impart all that they have learned through the years on us so that we can be successful, too.”

    What the students are learning in Duggan’s class has been humbling, according to Funkhouser.

    “It is important to start at the base of the healthcare industry even if your aspirations are greater,” said Funkhouser. “This class keeps you grounded. While some may go on to do lifesaving work, there has always got to be someone willing to do the caretaking that is so very necessary.”

    Duggan is proud that her students understand that the meaning of caretaking is much broader than the physical work.

    “I can teach them the skills, but the compassion has to come naturally,” said Duggan. “To watch them meet a patient’s needs with such empathy means everything to me. These patients are in compromising situations, and to watch these students, who are just 16 and 17 years old, deal with it so well, is wonderful to watch.”

    Principal Jeff Blankenship said that Duggan has been instrumental in leading practical training for her students inside the building and in the community with our business partners. 

    “Her students have had tremendous success passing their state exams right here inside our classroom testing facility,” said Blankenship. “Mrs. Duggan's students will be able to take these skills and certifications as they follow their career paths in the health care field."

    For more information, contact Principal Jeff Blankenship at (843) 856-8515.