CTE program makes headway
Dr. Michael Hynes (right) and Oregon Middle School assistant principal Joe Paolicelli (left).

Courtesy photo

CTE program makes headway

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
9/20/2018


Oregon Middle School assistant principal and former BOCES administrator Joe Paolicelli has been tasked by Patchogue-Medford superintendent of schools Michael Hynes and the board of education with helping to facilitate and create the district’s first-ever in-house Career and Technical Education program.

“I came to the district about six years ago and [Dr.] Hynes knew my background. He asked me if I would be interested about three years ago,” he said, explaining that the program is part of Hynes’ alternative pathways for students.

At that time Paolicelli set up and led a committee, which began looking into CTE programs. The group visited other districts including William Floyd and Levittown, which currently have similar programs, and began collecting ideas for course offerings. By the second year of the committee, they took the long compiled list of offerings and began to narrow it down with the help of a student survey and current BOCES enrollment. Thirty courses became a more manageable 10, he said.

Last year, a presentation was made suggesting the district move forward, which was approved by the board and accepted for funding. This year began the process of implementation for the 2019-20 school year, in which about three programs, including Law Enforcement and EMT Training, Computer Technology and Networking, and Computer Graphics and Web Design, will be offered to both juniors and seniors. Seniors will also be able to utilize BOCES services for all courses not offered in-district.

Law enforcement will be year one of the course and EMT training will be the second year. After leaving the two-year program, Paolicelli said students will be able to take a test leading to EMT certification to become an EMT basic, and/or acquire a security guard license if age 18 or older. Computer Technology and Networking students will endure a two-year program leading to a possible CISCO certification, and Computer Graphics and Web Design two-year program students will acquire licensing. Phase two will include medical health occupations and construction trades courses.

Still needed are state certifications and approvals as well as teachers to head the classes. The first step, Paolicelli said, is a self-study, which will identify the curriculum and ensure the course has established work-based learning and connection to local businesses, as well as college credit or certifications.

The self-study, once completed, will then be submitted for academic review, recommended by the superintendent and school board, and then sent to the state for approval. Paolicelli said he is aiming to have approval from the district before Christmas so that state approval can be acquired by the spring. However, upon district approval, courses will be offered and available for scheduling come February. 

At that point, he said, student interests will determine class limits, potentially hiring assistants as needed. Once implemented, juniors, who never before had the opportunity to go to BOCES, and seniors will be able to take in-house courses which will run for three periods a day, morning and afternoon, allowing for the normally used BOCES travel period to be used for electives. The following year will add two more programs and each year after that, Paolicelli said, will implement another course, until a total of 10 courses are operational over about an eight-year timeframe.

In addition to the gaining of a period due to reduced travel time and on-site course, Paolicelli said that, too, would reduce. 

Current BOCES costs to the district are about $13,000 per student minus some state aid. At its highest, $120,000 is allocated to most senior teachers with a class size of about 20 kids times two classes, which, he said, equals about $3,000 per child to attend the in-house program. Even with doubling the amount of students by allowing juniors to participate, costs will still be cut, he said, also referencing the possibility of applying for a Perkins grant to even further reduce costs.

“We are providing education to more kids at a lower price with even bigger benefits,” he said. “They aren’t losing a period because of travel. It’s efficient and timesaving.”

Currently, about 105 seniors attend BOCES; once fully implemented, the in-house CTE program would more than double that number with about 400 students, and offer the bulk of what students were enrolling in at BOCES. If possible, a cap will be set by the district, also allowing students to continue to utilize BOCES services for courses still not offered in-district, Paolicelli added.

“It’s time we celebrate the students who attend vocational training, just as we would students who are pursuing rigorous AP or IB classes. It’s time we eradicate the negative social stigma of a young adult pursuing the trades as someone who should only do it if  ‘college doesn’t work out,’” said Hynes. “In a society which values the doctor much more than the contractor, schools must begin to integrate Career and Technical Education into the school culture, into their school curriculum and into their school budgets.”