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Brandi Cannizzaro excited to take on new career development role with Forsyth County Schools
Brandi Cannizzaro
Brandi Cannizzaro.

Brandi Cannizzaro first started coordinating Career, Technical and Agricultural Education programs in 2009 when she took over as an assistant principal at South Forsyth High School.

Having previously taught math, she wasn’t sure what to expect. But after only a few weeks, she fell in love with all that CTAE had to offer students and teachers in Forsyth County.

“Just to see the excitement of the students and the engagement of the kids in [those CTAE] classes is what really got me hooked on that,” Cannizzaro said.

Through her time at South Forsyth and then at Lambert High School, she focused mostly on CTAE programming before opening Alliance Academy for Innovation, a nontraditional high school specializing in career pathways for students, where she has served as principal for the past four years.

Now, Cannizzaro is looking forward to exploring her passion and expanding CTAE programs across the district as Forsyth County Schools’ new assistant director of college and career development.

“I’m very excited to help support our students, teachers and community members throughout the district in this new role,” Cannizzaro said.

Taking over for Tracey Winkler, who will serve as an assistant principal at Denmark High School, Cannizzaro said she will be working closely with CTAE Director Dr. Valery Lowe to work with local businesses and industry, grow career pathways and student organizations, and work to ensure families know about the pathways offered across the district.

“I am absolutely going to miss [the Alliance Academy] students, staff and community,” Cannizzaro said. “It’s going to be definitely strange when school starts in August and I will not be housed at a school.”

Cannizzaro led the opening of Alliance Academy in 2018, recruiting students and families into the school while planning for its five career academies. It was the first school that she opened as a principal.

“It was amazing to be able to really start from the ground up,” Cannizzaro said. “I was at the groundbreaking in fall of 2016, so literally when [Alliance was] just dirt. And then to see not just the [facility] being built, but the entire school, the culture, the community — it was awesome. We just have such a good community at Alliance with the students, the staff and the families.”

After the community was established, she said Alliance found a way to continue to grow.

The school originally opened with 500 students in the 2018-19 school year with pathways spanning five career academies. Today, there are seven career academies with new pathways being added each year, and more than 1,150 students are enrolled in the Alliance, which has a capacity of 1,200.

Along with the pathways, Cannizzaro said the school’s Career Tech Student Organizations, or CTSOs, have grown significantly over the past few years. These organizations include DECA, for marketing students; HOSA, for those interested in health care and FBLA, for business-minded students.

“Having an opportunity to see the students be a part of the CTSOs and compete, whether it’s at the local, state, national or international level, has been amazing,” Cannizzaro said.

She and other CTAE leaders at Alliance and across the county have seen the impact that career pathways and CTSOs can have on students, helping them to become more engaged, find their passion while in school and find a home on campus.

Cannizzaro said CTSOs and career pathways have become a huge reason why students enjoy coming to school each day.

And with each student staying in a career pathway for three years and, typically, a CTSO for all four years of their high school career, they have the chance to explore their interests before heading out into the workforce or college.

Cannizzaro said her proudest accomplishment at Alliance has been its community — the students, staff and families who work to ensure success in and outside of the classroom.

“[The students and staff] continue to excel both in their academic and CTAE pathways, and our CTSOs have grown and done very well in their competitions,” she said.

She said she is also “extremely proud” of the school’s first graduating classes — the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2022 — for excelling through the pandemic.

Although she will miss Alliance, Cannizzaro said she will be working closely with the school’s new principal, Karl Mercer, along with the other schools in the county in her new role as she works to grow the district’s career pathways and opportunities in the same way she did at Alliance.

“I’m excited to be helping support our teachers and kids to help grow our pathways and grow our CTSOs,” Cannizzaro said. “And working with our stakeholders and community to just ensure that all of our students and families are very aware of all of our different pathway opportunities we have in our district.”