Weekly Feature

2011-02-10 / Front Page

School Board approves new Academy

by KRISTEN KOTZ Reporter

Life science is a growing field in Western New York, and the West Seneca School District is looking to capitalize on it.

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, the members approved a partnership between the district and the University at Buffalo to create a Life Science Academy program.

The academy will begin with the Class of 2015. Current eighth-graders who want to participate in the program will be able to apply in February of their freshman year and will begin taking academy classes during their sophomore year.

Timothy Oldenburg, the district’s director of academies and career technical education, said this academy program has been in the works for about 18 months.

He first became interested in the idea when he and Director of Science Mark Beehler met Marnie LaVigne, director of business development at the University at Buffalo’s Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering, in fall 2009 at the launch party for the university’s isciwny.com website.

The website contains information for high school students as well as job seekers about potential careers in life science. It also includes job postings and a list of companies that do work in the life science area.

Oldenburg said that at the website launch he learned about all job opportunities in the life sciences in Western New York. He added that the program is designed to give students the chance to start a career in the area.

“We want to make sure our students have the opportunity to stay here in Western New York,” Oldenburg said.

The life science industry uses science and technology to develop products and services that aim to improve health and well-being such as medical tests, devices and drugs.

The district had its first advisory board meeting for the academy in November, and participants were thrilled with the number of companies in the area that wanted to get involved.

In addition to UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, APP Pharmaceuticals, Celox, Surgical Repairs International and Superior Group are just a few of those wanting to serve on the advisory board, which is currently at 18 members.

The advisory board will help put together the curriculum and assist students with obtaining internships. It will also help to provide students with job shadows and field experiences.

The academy requirements include a three-credit-hour college course, a 150-hour internship and a capstone project.

Oldenburg said the academy will be divided into two paths: lab sciences and business in life science.

“Our program is a microcosm of the [isciwny.com] website in that students interested in the technical side can take the lab sciences and if they are interested in the non-technical side, they can take the business in life science strand,” he said.

The initial cost estimate for the academy is $1,500, and there was no request for additional staffing.

LaVigne said she rolled out this academy idea to schools across Western New York and no other district compared to West Seneca. She said the academy will expose students to the burgeoning field of life science and help prepare them for the careers of the future.

“It opens up a whole new industry for them they wouldn’t otherwise know about,” she said.

She added that West Seneca will serve as a flagship district for the academy and will also be used to add contents to the isciwny.com website.

The Life Science Academy becomes the sixth academy in the West Seneca district. The others are in the areas of finance, information technology, education, visual arts and engineering.

In addition to approving the Life Science Academy, the board also approved the attendance of English as a second language teacher Theresa Haungs at the National Chinese Language Conference April 14-16 in San Francisco.

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