Saturday December 15, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Autumn Bruce, a junior at Cambridge Central School, said she wanted to get a head start on becoming a kindergarten teacher. Junior Brittany Dupras said she also always wanted to work with young children.

Senior Charles Hayes said he was interested in a career in law enforcement, while another senior, Bailey Forward, said she would be pursing a degree in nursing.

What do the four Cambridge students all have in common? Each is pursuing their goal through career education programs offered through Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES.

Characterizing the regional organization as an extension of local school districts, BOCES Superintendent James Dexter said school officials and parents expected their students to receive an "outstanding education.

"And that's our expectation as well."

In a presentation Tuesday to Cambridge Central School board members, Dexter and Doug Leavens, director of career and technical education, gave a brief overview and introduced four local students involved in BOCES programming at the F. Donald Myers Education Center in Saratoga Springs. As schools continue through difficult financial straits, shared learning in the form of distance and online classes has been cited as a collaborative solution to pool costs. Created by the state Legislature, regional Board Of Cooperative Educational Services have been providing shared educational programs and services to interested districts since 1948.

Equipped with skills, knowledge

Leavens said all career programs were tied to their respective industries so that students could enter internships and leave well-equipped with the skills and knowledge for their respective fields.

"Our job is to make sure we're really honed in on what's required for work," said Leavens, who said each program offered "not one job but ... multiple career paths."

Bruce said she could graduate having completed not one, but two internships related to early childhood education. "In the program we have an active pre-school," she said. Planning to attend college and earn a masters in early childhood development, Bruce said the career-oriented tract suited her learning style. "I'm better at hands-on learning ... although we do have books there."

Hayes said two months of preparation in his criminal justice program would lead to a two-day mock trial this past week. "I'm the defendant," he said, "accused of killing a lady." Todd Sardella, a lawyer with Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP, played the part of judge in the trial, and Hayes said he planned to ride along with state police on his internship. The criminal justice program "gets your foot in early," he said, and, depending on grades, can earn students up to nine college credits.

Forward said she enrolled in BOCES for the new environment. "This sets me on the right track," she said. Two days a week, students in her program travel to a nursing home, where "we've been performing skills we've learned in BOCES out in the actual work field."

Math and English lessons are integrated into each career program so students can earn a high school diploma. School board members said they were impressed that each presenting student would be leaving BOCES headed toward college. "I've been a big proponent of BOCES for a long time," said board member Lillian Herrington.

The Cambridge area's BOCES is currently made up of 31 districts with 42,500 students. A recently completed study of seven schools in Washington County, available off the BOCES website, proposed similar sharing on a more local scale.