by Johnny Destino
I am getting a lot of feedback about my plan to increase vocational education for the students of Niagara Falls and I want to clarify one misconception regarding the costs.
I am not proposing Niagara Falls build and operate its own vocational high-school as we have in the past, but to better utilize our relationship with Orleans-Niagara BOCES.
As your BOCES board member for the past three years, I’ve worked hard to expand access for training programs for adult and continuing education learners. Now we need to focus on making our younger students aware of the opportunities that exist in Career and Technical Education.
The current Niagara Falls school board takes little interest in promoting the many amazing opportunities BOCES offers. Back in early February, I invited the board members to visit the Niagara Career and Technical Education Center in Sanborn. Of the nine members on the school board, only one member – Anthony Paretto – took me up on my offer.
My plan is to start bringing all of our middle school children to BOCES so that they may tour the facilities, see what alternate career paths exist in their future, perhaps giving hope to those who decide that college is not in their plans. And for every dollar we spend on BOCES, NYS reimburses the district approximately 85%.
Additionally, as the student enrollment increases in the CTE programs, it will be necessary for BOCES to lease additional space to teach the programs. If Niagara Falls, as the largest component district of ON-BOCES, seriously increases their enrollment figures, there is no reason we couldn’t find space in one of our buildings to lease back to BOCES (thereby bringing some of the BOCES-aidable funds right back to the district!)
The Niagara Gazette had it wrong in today’s paper that all of the candidates dismiss the school district’s poor WNY ranking (92 out of 96). It’s embarrassing and I won’t dismiss it, as the others have, by blaming our failures on poverty. Our poor graduation rate would be substantially improved if we showed some of our children that there is hope for a successful future.
There is currently a project underway to help people learn a trade and gain an apprenticeship with one of the local building trades unions. The Isaiah 61 group has shown terrific promise in being able to change the lives of so many of our local citizens. But why are we waiting until our children drop out of school before we start trying alternative pathways to success?
Students who complete the BOCES training programs graduate at a 98% rate. Many of these students would have not had the same measure of success if they had stayed in a traditional High School curriculum. Plus, they graduate with the skills necessary to begin a successful career immediately upon graduation.
I am serious about improving the opportunities for the children of Niagara Falls and I am asking everyone who wants to help to please vote for me on Tuesday, May 17.