MEXICO – The Region 9 board overwhelmingly voted Tuesday night to keep the diversified occupations program and eliminate the cooperative education program for the 2008-2009 school year.

The actions eliminated one teacher from the cooperative education program and one educational technician from the diversified occupations program. But it will keep what most believe is an important offering for students who don’t always succeed in traditional education.

“We will need to take a look at diversified occupations over the next year and what the sending schools may settle into. I don’t think the sending schools can meet the needs of diversified occupations students,” said Keith Farrington, a representative from SAD 44 in Bethel.

For Jeff Sterling, a SAD 43 board member as well as a member of the Region 9 board, the decision was difficult because he represents SAD 43.

“They are developing a similar program, but SAD 43 isn’t close to being ready to take this on,” Sterling said.

Carl Lueders, a SAD 21 board member who sits on the Region 9 board, said, “If something works really well, we should keep it going.”

A packed meeting room of students and their parents who supported both the diversified occupations and cooperative education programs at a special meeting last week may have led to the Region 9 board’s decision to retain the diversified occupations program, said Region 9 board Chairman Norman Clanton, who represents SAD 44.

“Having a lot of satisfied customers from SAD 21 was important, but (representatives) from other districts was important, too,” he said.

He said all districts are having a tough time developing budgets this year.

“SAD 44 is having a budget crunch, like everyone. But I cannot discontinue this program. There is nothing else out there that compares to this,” he said.

Diversified occupations teaches life skills such as how to get and keep a job. It generally is full each year, serving about 30 students from the three sending districts.

Cooperative education, a program that places students in jobs under the guidance of a teacher, wasn’t as fortunate.

Student participation is down to four this year, which was a factor in the board’s decision to eliminate the program.

“The numbers just aren’t there,” Mexico representative Randy Canwell said.

“I hate to see anything leave, but I could see that (cooperative education) happening in the sending schools,” said Sally Arsenault, newly appointed representative from Hanover.

“It would be an easy item for sending schools to pick up,” added Wayne Thurston, a SAD 21 representative.

If both programs had been eliminated, the Region 9 budget for fiscal 2009 would have dropped by about $225,000, director Brenda Gammon said last week.

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