OXFORD — Vocational education is strong and growing in the Oxford Hills, Oxford Hills Technical High School Principal Shawn Lambert recently told the SAD 17 Board of Directors.

From pre-engineering courses, to fashion design, forestry and early childhood education, the high school serves hundreds of the more than 1,100 students who attend the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, said Lambert, who met with the directors on Dec. 2 to update the board on the technical school.

“We are the only comprehensive school in Maine,” said Lambert, who was hired in 2010 to lead the school. “It’s a purposeful blending of resources.”

Both the comprehensive high school and Lewiston’s technical center are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Lambert told the directors that 90 percent of technical school students are from Oxford Hills and 10 percent come from Buckfield High School to participate in one or more of the 22 vocational programs.

Forty-five percent of students from the two sending high schools enroll in at least one Oxford Hills Technical High School program during their high school careers.

In the comprehensive high school, students just naturally flow from an academic classroom to a vocational classroom.

“They don’t really see it as two schools,” said Ted Moccia, principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. “I think that’s why we’re so successful as a comprehensive high school.”

All programs are approved by the Maine Department of Education, are aligned with industry standards and are formally reviewed by the vocational region school board or directors every year.

The technical school’s 2014 budget of $3.67 million is incorporated into the overall $35.9 million SAD 17 budget and is approved in a two-part vote in June, Lambert said.

SAD 17 is assessed 89 percent of the budget. RSU 10, the Western Foothills Regional School District which includes Buckfield, is assessed 11 percent of the budget, he said.

Vocational training history

Vocational training is the oldest type of education and usually took the form of apprenticeships, Lambert said. The focus was manual labor and specific trades. In the past 150 years, apprenticeships declined.

Lambert told the directors the Smith Hughes Act was enacted in 1917. It required states to create vocational educational boards and to segregate vocational curriculum from academic curriculum. It also required certain training fields and provided a source of federal funding for vocational education.

Vocational training was often influenced by what was happening in the world, such as World War I, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, and also by legislation, Lambert explained.

In 1984, the focus of vocational programs switched from expansion to improvement and, in 1990, academic and vocational education was integrated. By 2006, the name vocational education was changed to career and technical education, he said.

Today, the programs and partnerships are reviewed and internships and clinical sites are established on an annual basis.

Last year, a hospitality, travel and tourism management program was established at the Oxford Hills Technical High School, while truck driving was eliminated when state funding for the course dried up, Lambert said.

School officials are now looking at a federal grant to develop a computing program.

“In many areas, it’s second class,” Lambert said of vocational training. “Not in this area.”

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