FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — After watching an outside group withdraw a proposed charter school in Fort Wayne, Tom Kelley of the Kelley Automotive Group would like to try a different route: collaboration.
Kelley envisions “Anthis on steroids” for a school in southeast Fort Wayne to be run in partnership with either Fort Wayne Community Schools or East Allen County Schools.
The FWCS Anthis Career Academy trains high school students in skilled trade jobs. Kelley would like to see graduates leave with even more advanced professional certificates so they can command $75,000 salaries at graduation and make even more down the road.
“The career path might ultimately make $150,000,” said Kelley. “Full health benefits, 401k, days off, you get paid vacation right out of high school. We can take somebody with a basic training degree in auto technician and give them a 30 to 40 year career and we’d hire 20 of them tomorrow.”
Kelley told WANE 15 he’s had the idea for a while. His father, Jim Kelley, credited the toolmaker training he received at General Electric for his professional success. Tom would like to see that story repeated for thousands of students in southeast Fort Wayne, where Kelley grew up.
“I want every kid in Fort Wayne regardless of where they come from, what race they are, what religion they are, what gender they are, to have that opportunity.”
Kelley was impressed by the Career Academy in South Bend, which is a charter school operated through Trine University. Kelley would prefer a partnership with the public schools and believes Fort Wayne businesses would financially support the school either way to grow the pipeline of future workers.
Krista Stockman, spokesperson for FWCS, says the district is working with Kelley now on a project and will watch the impact of that effort closely.
“FWCS has collaborated with Tom Kelley and the Boys and Girls Club on the Jim Kelley Career Pathway Center, which will open in the fall,” Stockman emailed WANE 15. “We are looking forward to seeing how this program, initially targeting eighth-graders, will assist students in developing their college and career aspirations.”
Kelley thinks Fort Wayne public schools would be more receptive to the idea than South Bend schools were.
“[Superintendent] Mark Daniel has pushed his people as far out of the box as any superintendent I’ve ever worked with,” Kelley explained. “We’re going to do everything we can to make that work with Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools. That is my number one goal: to give them every opportunity to make this happen.”
CLARIFICATION: In the video that accompanies this story, the Career Academy in South Bend is mistakenly called “private.” It is a public charter school operated through Trine University.