The first things you notice when you walk in the front doors at Central Educational Center (CEC) in Coweta County are the many flags hanging in the lobby. The flags represent 18 countries that have visited CEC to gain insight into the unique model of connecting business and community with education to ensure a skilled, 21st century workforce.

CEC is a partnership, a “joint venture” among business and industry, the Coweta County School System, and West Georgia Technical College. By blending secondary and post secondary education and training with business and industry, CEC is a charter school designed to meet the needs of the new economy.

“Students see the relevance of this education to their future,” says CEC’s CEO Mark Whitlock, “They see what’s important to them in terms of finding their passion and I think they are motivated by that.”

Students at CEC are called “team members,” and they voluntarily enroll from all the county’s high schools. CEC’s unique blend of academic and technical courses prepares team members for the workforce and additional post-secondary education. Team members also have the option of taking dual-enrollment courses at CEC as early as age 14 - simultaneously earning credit toward a high school diploma and a West Georgia Technical College associate degree.

By designing the curriculum around the needs of local businesses, CEC can respond to a rapidly changing economy by combining academics with career and technical education, and by combining that education with businesses and industry.

Local businesses play an essential role in helping CEC achieve their mission of ensuring a viable 21st century workforce. Martin Pleyer is the Chief Operating Officer at Grenzebach Corporation and also serves at the Chairman of the Board of Directors at CEC. With a local office in Coweta County, Grenzebach is a fast growing, family-owned business with global activities supplying machinery to manufacturing industries.

“Over the last 30 to 40 years manufacturing has changed dramatically from what you hear from your grandparents,” says Pleyer, “The role of the CEC Board of Directors is to make sure that local businesses stay connected and to guide the school into the next frontier of industry.”

Grenzebach is one of many companies that partner with CEC to provide internships to students and help prepare them for their future career. Pleyer is collaborating with CEC to implement a European-style apprenticeship program that would train skilled, technical employees that could work in high-tech, high skill roles throughout the county, Georgia, and the nation.

The focus at CEC is on seamless education, which they accomplish by breaking down barriers between academics and career/technical classes, between high school and college, and between education and the workplace. With a highly-qualified staff, performance-based content aligned to industry standards, and a high level of simulation, CEC is not only preparing students for their college or career path, but is also giving them real-world knowledge and experience to become productive 21st century citizens.

Interested in how to replicate the CEC model? Check out the CEC replication manual to get started or visit their website,

In this video, CEC's students and staff share why they think the CEC model works: