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Students strive to gain work ethic

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By Kelly Richardson

By KELLY RICHARDSON

krichardson@thenewsenterprise.com

HARDIN COUNTY — The county school district is hoping that a new program will prove that its graduating students will not only know how to do the work at their new jobs, but that they will know how to work.

Hardin County Schools is working to implement a work ethic certificate in five of its schools, and administrators hope to spread the idea to more schools in the future.

The WorkEthic Certificate measures a student’s performance in areas such as attendance, punctuality and organization skills, among other criteria. The goal of the certificate is to prove a student is responsible enough to hold and succeed at a job, Superintendent Nannette Johnston said.

Johnston said if there are people who are evenly matched skill-wise for a job, it will be the person with the best work ethic who will be hired.

“I think that is one of the greatest gifts we can teach our students,” she said.

The certificate shows potential employers the district believes a certified student has those skills.

Punctuality and attendance, along with most of the other criteria, are skills that are monitored at schools now. But Johnston hopes the certificate will show students the real-world applications of these skills; that they’re not just for school, they’re for a job as well.

Johnston learned of the idea at an education conference, and she wanted to bring it to HCS after hearing from local businesses that many of their young employees are missing these skills.

Use of the certificates is beginning at Central Hardin, North Hardin and John Hardin high schools, as well as at J.T. Alton Middle School and Vine Grove Elementary School. While middle and elementary school students aren’t looking for jobs, Johnston wants to make those skills a part of students’ foundation.

“We want it to be part of who they are,” she said.

The program is being implemented in different ways and is at different stages at the schools.

Central Hardin is using the certificate in its co-op program, where students leave school for part of the day to work at a business in the community, teacher Kelly Rabinowitz said.

“It helps them see that these are skills that employers look at,” she said.

The program didn’t require much of a change, since educators already were asking co-op employers some of the same questions they’re now asking for the certificate.

Stace McElfresh, an assistant principal at John Hardin, said he hopes it will make students more competitive when finding jobs. There, students in the business department are participating.

McElfresh said it clearly shows students what’s expected of them.

“It puts it in black and white for them, and a lot of times that’s what students have to see,” he said.

There is no actual certificate at Vine Grove Elementary, but teachers monitor whether students exhibit work ethic skills, and those students will be acknowledged at the end of the year, counselor Patti Mayhew said.

It’s very easy to embed it in regular lessons, she said, because the criteria have always been expected of students.

“It’s not a whole lot different than the normal rules you’d follow,” she said.

Johnston said administrators will look at how the program did at these schools at the end of the year before spreading it to more.

Kelly Richardson can be reached at (270) 505-1747.