A New School Keeping the Promise of Career and Technical Education

Article excerpt

IN A CITY WITH A PROUD HISTORY OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION, THE LONG-AWAITED OPENING OF WORCESTER TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL IS MAKING SOME HISTORY OF ITS OWN.

WHEN WORCESTER MASSACHUSETTS, opened the Worcester Trade School-one of the first vocational high schools in the country-in the early 1900s, it marked an important change in public education. Today the need for skilled workers is still industry driven, and the demand for highly trained and well-educated graduates is being answered once again by Worcester's newest and most innovative school, Worcester Technical High School.

The old Worcester Trade School opened with 50 students, and became overcrowded in just five years. Local industrialists, knowing the value of such training, poured thousands into the building of two more schools, which were eventually merged into the Worcester Public School System as the Worcester Vocational High School. Once again there was incredible growth within the school spurring the need for expansion.

History Repeats Itself

"The Worcester Vocational High School is an invaluable educational and economic development engine for our city and region," said then Worcester Mayor Timothy Murray early in the campaign for a new school. "The entire community must come together to ensure this continues for the next 100 years by building a new state-of-the-art facility."

And so they did. In 1997, the physical condition of the school prompted a vote to build a new career and technical school with the support of educators, industry leaders, elected officials and the community at large. In Worcester tradition, the project was funded with help from local industrialists with the foresight and appreciation of what the skilled worker would provide in the future. Edwin B. (Ted) Coghlin, Jr. chairman of the Worcester Vocational Schools Advisory Board, president of the Skyline Technical Fund and owner of Coghlin Electrical Contractors Inc., was one of the city's biggest advocates for construction of a new high school.

"Technology and training needs by area companies demand that our students-their future employees-have the best training using the most advanced technology available," Coghlin told the Worcester Business Journal. "Our students deserve the best so we can help them become the best for their future and ours."

Along with the generous support of local businessmen such as Coghlin, there was also private fund raising, and the city contributed six million dollars matched nine-to-one by state and federal funds.

Breaking New Ground

Ground was broken for Worcester Tech on June 10, 2002. The construction plans boasted a state-of-the-art, 400,000-square-foot building with more than 100 classrooms, 24 learning centers, numerous shops, support areas, retail stores, restaurants, a fully operational bank, automotive repair and collision service areas, a health clinic, and meeting and tourism facilities. The new facility would house f ,500 daytime students and more than 3,000 after-hours students, providing the best in career and technical education.

The planning for the new school that began almost two decades ago with the merging of the independent technical schools with the public school system was solidified with the support of local businesses and community members, and articulation agreements with such schools as Becker College, Johnson & Wales University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Massachusetts, New England Institute of Technology, and Quinsigamond Community College.

"The school is based on a cluster academy model, in which 24 different occupations are divided into four distinct career clusters," says Peter Crafts, director of vocational and technical education for Worcester Public Schools. "The four academies are Allied Health and Human Services, Alden Design and Engineering Technology, Coghlin Construction Technologies, and Cisco/Dell Information Technology and Business Management Services. …