On September 5, 1967, South Tech welcomed its first class of 400 students to campus on West Watson Road in Sunset Hills. The Special School District Board of Education stated a simple, but challenging goal for their newly established Technical Division: “make available to the youth and adults of St. Louis County a program of vocational technical education second to none in America.” Fifty years later, South Tech continues to strive toward this goal and enjoys a long list of successful, happy graduates. To honor 50 years of service to the community and its students, Sunset Hills Mayor Patricia A. Fribis shared a proclamation declaring April 24, 2018 “South Technical High School Day”. Principal Jake Lohse was awarded the proclamation at a recent Sunset Hills City Council meeting.
South and North Tech High Schools were developed using grants from the Vocational Act of 1963 which aimed to ensure that new and expanded vocational and technical education opportunities were available to students and remained in harmony with the needs of industry. The act’s language about meeting the “needs of industry” required flexibility and a commitment to providing education that remained relevant. The resulting variety of program offerings over the decades reflects of our ever changing labor force.
In the 1967-1968 school year, South Tech offered the following courses: Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, Appliance Service, Auto Mechanics, Body & Fender Repair, Business & Office Education, Commercial Art, Electronic Data Processing, Fitter-Welder, Industrial Electronics, Offset-Lithography, Radio-TV Service, and Sheet Metal. Juniors and seniors attended for the full day and took social studies, physical education and English classes along with their technical courses. Since the high school was comprehensive, students also participated in a variety of extracurricular activities including prom, sports, student council, and other clubs. South Tech continued offering a full day program until 2008.
Tech today continues developing dynamic courses for students to prepare them for in-demand career opportunities both regionally and nationally. Programs like Pharmacy Sciences and Design & Entrepreneurship have been added in response to increased regional interest in these fields. Dramatically increased demand from the construction industry inspired a recent restructuring of our construction programs to allow more exploration during the junior year. Students can become more familiar with fields like carpentry and electrical trades and learn about job opportunities with those programs’ industry partners before choosing an advanced core class their senior year. Echoes of 1968’s Electronic Data Processing are present in the complex and challenging curricula of our CISCO Networking Academy and Web & Computer Programming. Industrial Electronics has evolved into an Electronics & Robotics Engineering course, preparing students for high-level university study. Demands in medical science inspired the development of courses in Health Sciences, Dental Sciences, and Veterinary Assistant. South Tech also began training students for public safety careers in Law Enforcement and Firefighting and Emergency Medical Technician, sending countless numbers of students to respective academies after graduation to join the forces of those who serve to protect. And human service programs like Early Childhood Education, Culinary Arts, and Cosmetology have given students opportunities to earn certifications, licensure and college credit in creative and exciting careers.Unlike the programs offered in 1968, many of today’s skilled trade and technical fields require post-secondary education. Choosing to attend a university or college, technical college, or community college is a common next step for most of our students. Over the years, many of career fields have added certifications (IRC’s) to the credentials they require for employment. South Tech has incorporated these exams into our curriculum, giving students a jump start as many search for part-time employment and internships as they begin their post-secondary studies. Programs that give students career opportunities immediately after high school graduation, including several apprenticeship programs, also remain among our offerings. Because Tech is focused on preparing and inspiring students, there are no limits on where they can go after completing one of our programs.
South Tech’s next 50 years look even more promising. As the national conversation about K-12 education shifts focus to include a more concentrated effort on producing career-ready graduates, South Tech’s career and technical education electives will play an important role in preparing our region’s students for the career opportunities of the future. South Tech’s commitment today remains as it was in its inaugural year. As stated by the school’s first principal, Homer Horton, “The South (County) Technical High School expands the realm of educational opportunities for the youth of St. Louis County and provided better prepared young employees for business and industry.”