Gov. Kay Ivey officially opened the new Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering in Huntsville today calling it a “testimony to our (state’s) commitment to being innovative in every way.”
Ivey said the school, built by a “multi-year collaborative effort” shows “the world what we are made of and that we are ready for what is yet to come.” It is the only high school in America, she said, repeating “the only” school, “focused on integrating cyber technology and engineering into the academic disciplines.”
The school is Alabama’s newest state magnet school on a 26-acre campus in Cummings Research Park and is similar in function to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile. The cyber school has 254 students now: 151 commuter students and 103 boarding students. Thirty-eight percent are female and 38 percent are minority students, the school said, and they all come tuition free from 61 Alabama cities and towns.
“Our mission is to ensure that all of our students achieve high levels of learning,” school President Matthew Massey said, “and it doesn’t matter their background or where they come from.”
Massey said the school wants to model what is possible in new academic fields like cybersecurity. “Our students receive learning not just in these classrooms but outside from field experience opportunities and internships.”
“We’ve been dreaming of this for four years and we are here,” said Dr. Claudette Owens, a cyber school foundation board member. “Where else would we but in Huntsville in the state of Alabama introducing another first?”
“Because of you this nation will remain a safe nation,” Owens said, “where we will insure that in this new space we find ourselves in called virtual and cyber we will remain safe, as well.”
Brett Pagle, an engineering manager for the tech company Raytheon Codex in Huntsville – Codex is short for cyber offense and defense experts – was among the industry leaders at the opening.
“I think it’s amazing,” Pagle said. “I’ve had the opportunity to interact with the students through Raytheon’s involvement and every interaction I have, I come away encouraged about the future of what we’re doing in cyber. They’re all super smart, motivated, eager to learn.”
“We need them, Huntsville needs them and I think the nation needs them,” Pagle said of the school’s students. “We have a pretty significant skills gap in cyber security and cyber in general.” The school is an example of what can be done to meet that need, Pagle said.