The third in a series of industry-supported, career-focused high schools is slated to open in August 2019 on San Antonio’s South Side.
The San Antonio Independent School District is partnering with UT Health San Antonio to open CAST Med High School at Brooks City Base.
SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the location is an important part of the school’s goal to increase access to the medical profession.
“So many of our students that live on the West Side, that live on the South Side, that live on the East Side, they can see these big towers, the big hospitals … but for them it’s a distant world. They cannot see the connection that this is an opportunity for them,” Martinez said.
Even though UT Health is located in the medical center in northwest San Antonio, Martinez said the medical school didn’t want CAST Med nearby because Northside ISD’s Health Careers High School is already in the area.
He said CAST Med will differ from existing health programs at SAISD by focusing on preparing students to become doctors and medical researchers rather than entry-level professions like nursing assistants.
“We are redefining access,” Martinez said. “If you look at Health Careers (High School) … there’s not a lot of access, especially for high needs, high poverty.”
Eddie Rodriguez will be CAST Med’s first principal. He previously served as the principal of Harlandale’s STEM High School, and said he was drawn to CAST Med by that focus on access.
“I would not have applied for this position had it not been for the whole vision of making this school accessible to all students,” Rodriguez said. “My passion is for teaching all kids, not just the selective, (gifted and talented) or the top kids.”
Rodriguez said CAST Med will offer three pathways for students: medicine, public health and biomedical research. He said CAST Med will not be offering certification in entry-level health careers.
“Research shows that when a (high school) student receives a certificate such as maybe dental hygienist or they become a pharmacy tech ... they stay in certificate-level jobs. They don’t become the pharmacist at Walgreens. They don’t become the doctor, the dentist,” Rodriguez said.
Like the other schools founded by the Centers for Applied Science and Technology, SAISD’s CAST Tech and Southwest ISD’s CAST STEM, CAST Med’s curriculum will be created with the help of industry partners. Those partners will also provide mentors, job shadowing opportunities and internships.
“Typically the industry partner is brought on later,” said Kate Rogers, president of The Holdsworth Center and one of the founders of the CAST school network. “Here they’re helping to design the (career) pathways.”
In addition to UT Health, other CAST Med industry partners include The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Mission Trail Baptist Hospital and the University Health System.
Current eighth graders interested in becoming part of CAST Med's first freshman class can start applying in November. The district plans on starting with 150 freshmen and adding a grade each year for a total enrollment of 600. Enrollment is open to anyone in Bexar County. SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said the district plans to offer half the seats to students who live in the district and the other half to students outside the district.
HEB President Charles Butt, who spearheaded the launch of CAST schools, is donating $1 million for the launch of CAST Med. HEB donated another $1 million.
SAISD is contributing $2 million, and the district is launching a capital campaign to raise another $8 million to renovate the campus at Brooks and start the school.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille