The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Tango Flight Program Takes Off at Midway ISD

MISD Education Foundation awards $133,000 grant for fall program

4 months ago

Pictured: Photos provided by Midway ISD Foundation

By Avery Ballmann

When the students of Midway High School walk the halls of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) wing this fall, through the clear glass windows of a classroom they’ll see their fellow classmates construct the wings and cockpit of an airplane that in two years’ time will take off from the tarmac and fly amongst the clouds.

In early March, the Midway Independent School District Education Foundation along with Jim & Lynette Allmon Foundation, Blackhawk Aerospace, TSTC Waco, Haggard & Stocking, Baylor University Institute for Air Science and Col. Joe McKethan awarded the CTE program $133,000 to fund the Tango Flight Program, a capstone project for students in the engineering CTE pathway.

Tango Flight is a high school course that provides students with the tools needed to build and fly a two-seat FAA-certified airplane. Tango Flight is a dual-credit curriculum introducing students to the disciplines of aerospace: electrical, mechanical, manufacturing and design engineering. Each week, students will also receive mentorship and guidance on the build from members of the aviation and engineering community.

Director of Career and College Readiness and CTE for Midway ISD Jess Wheeler said he is always seeking advantageous opportunities for his students. When he began looking at the State of Texas “completers” rate — a measurement of how many students complete three courses in their pathway — he found that Midway’s engineering pathway was one of the lowest completion rates out of the 14 pathways the CTE program offers.

“The reality is, there was nothing there to draw students in for what we were doing,” Wheeler said. “So, it became critical for me to create the opportunity because kids will engage longer in a program knowing that there’s something that’s really meaningful and opportunistic for them at the end of the rainbow.”

Thanks to Director of Development for Midway ISD and Executive Director of Midway ISD Education Foundation Ashley Futris’ connection with the aviation community, she was able to pass this idea onto Wheeler and give him the floor to pitch it to the Education Foundation Board.

“I’m out at the various schools trying to talk to all the teachers as much as I can — clubs and organizations, the principal — finding out what their needs are,” Futris said. “I’m the connector.”

The Education Foundation Board consists of 27 members who are teachers, parents, volunteers and other community representatives. The board fundraises grants through board members’ relationships with businesses and donors in the community during their one-time drive from August to December.

“We’re really blessed to be in a community that’s extremely supportive of Midway,” Futris said. “A strong community is just as strong as its school system.”

Every month the foundation awards Express Grants that are available to any teacher to apply that will cover a program or classroom supplies up to $2,000. Once a semester, a teacher is awarded the Grants for Great Ideas that cover classroom projects or needs up to or exceeding $5,000. Because the Tango Flight program is more expensive and requires more fundraising, once the students build their first certified plane, they will be able to sell it and use the money to purchase another flight kit.

“It’s been a very productive partnership between she and I, and her board has been phenomenal and instrumental, they’re open to all kinds of different concepts,” Wheeler said. “So, it’s been a privilege to be able to work with them.”

Because of this partnership between CTE and the Education Foundation, the students reap the rewards. Capstone projects and pathways like Tango Flight gives the students a trial run to test out potential career paths.

“I think those capstone opportunities genuinely offer value for the direction that a kid gets to take,” Wheeler said. “I think for me, it’s testing out that this opportunity is something that truly interests you.”

When Futris was at Midway back in the early 2000s she did not have the pathways the school offers now, but like Wheeler, she believes that the option to pick a pathway gives students a head start before going to college.

The Tango Flight program is a two-year build for one airplane and will begin this fall. Wheeler said that students have already signed up for the class and there is an immense buzz around school amongst students and teachers.

“Right now, it’s all just word of mouth and exciting and this and that, but very soon, students walking down the hall will be able to see and that begins to sell itself,” Wheeler said. “The students I’ve interacted with are extremely excited. They can’t believe that something like this is truly gonna happen.”

To donate or learn more about the Education Foundation visit their website or follow their Instagram @misdfoundation.