Pati Romo, holding the "Dream" sign, with the CCA team. Photo provided by Pati Romo

College and Career Advantage Executive Director retires after bringing program to new heights

By CUSD Insider staff

After many years at the Capistrano Unified School District and in the world of education, Pati Romo is off on a new adventure.

Romo retired from the district in June as executive director of CUSD’s College and Career Advantage (CCA) and College and Career Readiness. Her efforts expanding career technical education (CTE) helped countless students from both Capistrano Unified and Laguna Beach Unified find paths beyond high school into skilled trades, careers, and professional worlds that make their communities better places to live.

Romo credits her team of talented people who make a difference in children’s lives.

“I feel so fortunate to work with such talented people in each district that I serve,” she said. “I truly love what I do and feel the rewards each time I see an example of student success, from the robotics team winning a championship to a student finding their passion/career pathway, it’s the most rewarding job I’ve had.”

Photo provided by Pati Romo

Romo is succeeded by Dr. Paul Weir, who called his predecessor “a true professional who cares deeply about providing CTE experiences for our students at all grade levels. Pati has built a high-quality CTE program in CCA for our students and communities to benefit from. She has been a strong advocate for CTE her entire career, caring about her staff and their success both professionally and personally.”

Prior to her final role, Romo also worked as a teacher, assistant superintendent, and program coordinator, among other titles. She was executive director for seven years, supporting CTE teachers in every aspect, from enhancing their labs and helping with field trips to arranging guest speakers, internships, and business/industry advisors. All that curriculum, she noted, could be focused toward industry standards that earn college credit and even meet University of California (UC) admissions standards.

A student in the CCA program. Photo provided by Pati Romo

CCA expanded under her tenure, starting from serving about 5,000 students in 2015 to today serving 17,000 students enrolled in CTE pathways. Each middle school has CTE labs to explore career pathways and do hands-on projects in sectors like engineering, robotics, 3-D manufacturing, commercial piloting, vinyl printing, and biotechnology.

“I would not have had this opportunity if it weren’t for CUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte,” Romo said. “She had a vision of CTE as a united program that integrates both ROP and district courses into cohesive pathways, and allowed me to run with it.”

A special California CTE incentive grant also helped build and enhance more than 50 classrooms and labs for teaching subjects that include culinary arts, engineering, and even surgical tech.

Students in the CCA program’s classes. Photo provided by Pati Romo

“These are just a few of the fantastic industry standard learning spaces for students that allow them to learn ‘on the job’ in high-quality simulation labs,” Romo added. “We are in the process of building six new College and Career Centers at each of the high schools that will serve the students of the high school and the middle school/elementary school students that pathway into those schools. And we have just begun to offer elementary CTE programs so that our youngest students can complete hands-on projects that may interest them in a middle school, high school, and beyond pathway. There are so many exciting things to look forward to in CUSD/Laguna Beach USD.”

In her retirement, Romo said she and her husband plan to spend time in a home they acquired in the Puget Sound, Washington, area that has acreage, ducks, fish, and a beaver pond. It will be like “vacationing in our own backyard,” she said.

“I know that I am leaving everyone in good hands,” Romo said. “Dr. Paul Weir, my successor, and I have a similar vision for CTE in the South Orange County region, and the CUSD and CCA teams will support him in his new role. It’s a great family.”

Students in the CCA program. Photo provided by Pati Romo
Students in the CCA program. Photo provided by Pati Romo
Students in the CCA program. Photo provided by Pati Romo

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