The top of the school’s stationery states “Carlton Center…Opportunity is Here” and that’s what is available for students at the campus named for a former educator instrumental in CFISD’s development of a comprehensive program for students with disabilities.
The Carlton Center provides its students with two distinct programs:
- LIFE Skills classes and programming for students primarily middle school age through 21 years old requiring a highly structured setting; and
- four specialized vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment. The programs are for students in their later high school years, providing both campus- and community-based instruction.
Cypress Falls High School senior Andrea Mendieta measures out ingredients during Commercial Foods Service at the Carlton Center, which provides vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment.
The campus currently serves 71 students, with attendance varying annually based on the recommendations from their home campuses. Of those, 37 students are in the vocational training programs, which include Commercial Foods Service, Business Media Production and VITAL (Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living).
“In CFISD, we can meet the diverse needs of all of our learners,” said Leigh Ann Crank, an instructional specialist at the Carlton Center. “Carlton Center provides a specific pathway for that. For our students with disabilities, particularly those that are adults with disabilities, we can offer them specialized training to grow their independence within their preferred job field.”
Jersey Village High School senior Lamon Hanna organizes place settings during VITAL (Vocational Independence and Training for Adult Living) at the Carlton Center. The program helps students develop skills for after graduation, which may include readiness for employment or independence in their home.
Vocational programs are for students who have completed all their course requirements for graduation and continue to need vocational training. Commercial Foods Service and Business Media Production serve as two-period block classes, while VITAL is a full-day program.
In the vocational training, students go out and work with community partners, using skills learned in the classroom and using them as they transition closer to independence. It could be job readiness skills for potential employment or simply becoming more independent in one’s home.
“It’s such a great feeling to see our students you’ve seen for so many years go through some of those classes and progress and have that paid job and a paycheck,” said Heather Browarek, Carlton Center vocational team leader. “It’s very rewarding. A lot of hard work, a lot of teachers, a lot of influential people have helped these students and it’s amazing to see the end product, which is a happy working young man or young lady.”
Cypress Creek High School senior David Granados uses a jig saw to cut out an outline of Texas during Business Media Production at the Carlton Center, which provides vocational programs focusing on pre-vocational, training and social skills to promote independence and readiness for paid employment.
The center is named for Mrs. Dorothy Carlton, who was hired by CFISD in 1957 as the district’s first and only teacher for special education. Carlton helped shape the program, serving as supervisor and director of special education before retiring in 1977.
Originally dedicated in 1980 at the Cy-Fair Annex, the Carlton Center has been at its present home adjacent to Cypress Woods High School since 2006.
“I did a tour and just fell in love,” Browarek said. “I said the first year I feel like I hit the lottery.”