Longtime CTE Principal and Teacher Will Lead Efforts to Deliver High-Quality CTE to Over 100,000 High-School Students
NEW YORK – Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced the appointment of Principal John Widlund as Executive Director of Career and Technical Education, where he will lead efforts to strengthen the City’s CTE programs, including its designated CTE high schools. Today’s 21st-century CTE programs offer a rigorous sequence of academic and technical courses – designed and implemented in coordination with university and industry partners – that strengthen students’ performance in core academic subjects while also giving them career-specific skills to prepare them for life beyond high school. Widlund brings over two decades of experience and expertise as a CTE educator to this position and starts in his new position July 6.
As Executive Director of Career and Technical Education, Widlund will work within the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness (OPSR), which oversees a wide range of school and program models for high school students, including CTE. Widlund will focus on implementing the vision for CTE across the City, deepening the connection between academics and CTE courses, and strengthening partnership with the City’s universities and industries. This work will build on the efforts underway since 2003 to increase program quality and open 33 new CTE schools with a focus on rigorous, industry-aligned, technology-driven instruction. In just the past two school years, 13 new CTE schools have opened.
John Widlund will become Executive Director after 12 years as a CTE principal, most recently at the School of Cooperative Technical Education High School since 2008. Coop Tech is a unique half-day CTE program that serves approximately 1500 students – with a main campus in Manhattan and satellite campuses in the other four boroughs – who are 16 to 21 years old and come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. At Coop Tech, Widlund developed 17 university and industry partnerships aligned to entry-level industry or college placement, created 5 new rigorous CTE tracks, and established a paid student internship program for over 500 students every year. Under his leadership, the number of students completing CTE sequences grew from 400 to over 1000 each school year. Student attendance, retention, and licensing and industry certification rates all increased by more than 20%.
“Strengthening our CTE programs is an important priority, and John brings critical expertise,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I know John’s work supporting hard-to-reach students, his commitment to industry and university partners to leverage expertise and secure internships for his students, and his emphasis on professional development and collaboration as a foundation for building high-quality CTE programs will elevate the caliber of our CTE offerings. I look forward to working closely with him as we prepare our CTE students for college and 21st-century careers.”
“It is an honor to take on this role, and I look forward to working with Chancellor Fariña, as well as educators and industry leaders across the City, to offer high-quality CTE programs. We have seen so much progress in the quality of CTE programs over the last decade, but I know there is more work to be done. Working together, we can meet the needs of all our CTE students and provide them with the technical and critical-thinking skills they need to succeed in college, careers, and beyond,” said John Widlund, Executive Director of Career and Technical Education.
“Our CTE programs combine rigorous academics with career specific skills, providing students with exciting options for success once they leave high school,” said Phil Weinberg, Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning. “We've seen a real sea change in the quality of CTE over the past decade – these are not your old vocational programs – and I am thrilled to work with John to build on this success.”
“This appointment demonstrates the Department of Education’s commitment to high-quality, knowledge-economy CTE programs,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “New York City’s business leaders know that high-quality CTE engages students and gives them invaluable skills – both for themselves and for our workforce. We want our New York City public school graduates to be filling critical jobs and building the future of this City, and we are excited to partner with Chancellor Fariña and John Widlund on this important work.”
Before coming to Coop Tech, Widlund served as principal of George Westinghouse High School, a traditional CTE high school, from 2003 to 2008. During his tenure, he restructured the school into four distinct CTE academies. Widlund previously served as assistant principal of Ralph McKee Vocational High School on Staten Island, and started at the DOE as a CTE lead teacher at Chelsea Vocational High School in 1992. He has been a member of the DOE’s Citywide CTE Advisory Council since 2003, working alongside critical industry and higher-education partners. He is also a graduate of the Success Via Apprenticeship program, which is jointly managed by the DOE, UFT, and NYC College of Technology. Throughout his career and as a school leader, Widlund has emphasized collaborative professional development and sharing of strong practices, as well as services to meet students’ unique social-emotional needs.