CAST School Network Grows

Sep 19, 2017

Left To Right: San Antonio College Chancellor Bruce Leslie, Southwest ISD's Loyd Verstuyft, H-E-B's Kate Rogers, Southwest ISD's Aja Gardner, and Palo Alto College's Mike Flores
Credit Paul Flahive

The second of the Centers for Applied Science & Technology announced more details in its collaboration with Southwest Independent School District and Palo Alto College. Now known as CAST Stem, it is the second school in the network started by H-E-B CEO Charles Butt that partners with public school districts. 

Unlike CAST Tech, the in-district charter with SAISD that focuses on internet technology, coding, and entrepreneurship, organizers say CAST STEM will focus on engineering, energy technology and advanced manufacturing.

"This is a cornerstone of manufacturing within the city," says Palo Alto College President Mike Flores, pointing to businesses like Toyota and other industrial companies on San Antonio's south side.

Palo Alto College will host students in their final two years of CAST Stem in a yet unbuilt facility. Flores says students can earn college credit and industry certificates.

"So students can exit with a certificate. They can actually even exit with an associates degree and their first two years of college free, which is priceless," says Flores.

The first two years at CAST STEM, students will spend at Southwest ISD's brand new Legacy High School in Von Ormy. Southwest ISD superintendent Loyd Verstuyft says students will benefit from a dynamic curriculum that has input from industry partners like Holt Cat, as well as the positives of experiencing a college campus early. 

"It's all these coming together. It's not us reaching out saying 'Can you do this? Can you do that?' They're actually part of the plan in the beginning," Verystuyft says.

Aja Gardner was named as principal of CAST Stem. Gardner was director of STEM and Advanced Academics in South San and was an assistant principal in North East ISD previously. 

Additional industry partners  include Toyota, CPS Energy, Zachry Group, Caterpillar, Standard Aero, E02 Concepts and others. Kate Rogers runs point on the CAST program for H-E-B. In a statement she says these partnerships are pivotal because of internship potential as well as networking opportunities for students.

"CAST STEM will give them a rare opportunity to explore real jobs and workplaces, make connections and relationships and enter the workforce or college with confidence and credits under their belt," says Rogers.

The school is scheduled to open next fall with 200 students, half of whom will come from the district and the other half from Bexar and neighboring counties.