CLEARWATER — Plans for a new, cutting edge technology program at Countryside High School are taking shape.
The high school, which doesn't have an attractor now, may soon have a magnet with a study path tailored to the burgeoning field of cyber security.
The details of the program, called the Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or ISTEM, are a work in progress. But, according to the latest draft of proposed offerings, ISTEM also would include study paths for database programming and digital video production.
Bill Lawrence, director of Pinellas County Schools advanced studies and academic excellence, said the district hopes to work with members of the team to hone elements of the ISTEM program, chief among them, cyber security.
William Schweikert, director of engineering for Raytheon in Florida and a Science Center board member, is upbeat about the prospect of doing so.
His business has traditionally seen a need for cyber security professionals, but the need is even greater today, he said.
"There's a significant increase in cyber attacks that we think we can solve, and we need trained professionals," Schweikert said.
There are numerous cyber risks beyond breaches of personal, corporate or government information. Cyber security also is imperative for national security because such networks are tied to things such as power, water, banking and transportation systems. Last year, President Barack Obama announced his plan to make cyber security a priority for the administration.
The proposed ISTEM program would require students to take a minimum of four courses in mathematics and science and to complete two or more advanced placement or dual college enrollment courses, said Lawrence, who also is on the Science Center board of directors.
Students would also have the opportunity to obtain information technology industry certifications.
The first priority will be ironing out the freshman year curriculum, Lawrence said. Over the next few years, the district will work on developing the rest of the ISTEM program.
Only incoming ninth-graders would be able to apply for the new magnet, which goes before the Pinellas County School Board for approval Tuesday.
But current students may be able to take some courses in the program as electives if there are openings, Lawrence said.
Countryside High parent Stephanie Brown is not sold on the new proposal. She wanted an International Baccalaureate program at the school and hoped for a "well-rounded college preparatory program."
"(The program) is going to cater to those very few number of kids that love math," Brown said.
Michael Pate, a member of the school's advisory council, said he's not sure what the final attractor will look like, but he's pleased that the district is on the right track.