The trade areas at Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln High Schools will be called “The Behrouz and Christiane Rassekh Foundation TradeWorks Academy Learning Facility.”
A ribbon cutting for the facilities is tentatively planned for late September.
The Council Bluffs Community School District Board of Education approved a resolution to that effect during its meeting Tuesday to recognize the retired neurosurgeon and his wife for their generous donation to help fund remodeling of the areas.
“We wanted to honor them, because we’re so grateful for their contribution to the district — for seeing the value of the program and the value to our students,” Superintendent Vickie Murillo said.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” said board member Troy Arthur.
The Rassekhs wanted to help provide a pathway to success for students who don’t want to attend college, Behrouz Rassekh said.
“In Europe when they are 16, they have an opportunity to choose a trade, if they don’t want to go to college, and that’s what we wanted to do when we came here,” he said. “We wanted young people, if they didn’t want to go to college, to have an opportunity to have a good job.”
Making a monetary donation to help build that pathway locally had been in the back of his mind for years, Rassekh said.
“We talked to the school system and Dr. Murillo, and they were very enthusiastic — and she did most of the work,” he said.
The need to expand the trades programs at the schools was one issue raised at the first listening session Murillo held after becoming superintendent of the district in 2017. By the following spring, the district was making plans to remodel the industrial technology areas and expand course offerings.
It was decided the TradeWorks Academy would offer instruction and hands-on activities in automotive and diesel technology, construction, electrical systems, plumbing, HVAC/refrigeration and welding and fabrication.
Demolition work, the first phase of the remodeling project, began in the shop areas at the two high schools in summer 2018 to clear the way for remodeling and reconfiguration of the space. The school board approved plans and specifications for the second phase on Nov. 27, 2018. On Jan. 22, the board awarded a contract for $1.16 million for Phase II to Prairie Construction of Omaha.
The cost, except for interior demolition and some prep work paid for by the school district’s physical plant and equipment levy and revenue from the one-cent sales tax for schools, will be covered by the donation from the Rassekh Foundation.
Rassekh practiced neurosurgery in Council Bluffs for 32 years before his retirement in 2004. He grew up in Iran and earned his medical degree at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He moved to Omaha in 1965 and did an internship at Nebraska Methodist Hospital, then completed residencies at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Once he began practicing, his office was on the Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital campus, but he also had hospital privileges at CHI Health Mercy Hospital, Myrtue Hospital in Harlan and other area hospitals.