Left to right: Students Christopher Alcimbert and Domenic Schiavo with Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Lead Teacher Dwight Seaman.
By Judy Bass
CANTON – Blue Hills Regional Technical School recently held its Fall 2019 Advisory Board dinner and meetings, both of which were well-attended by faculty, administrators and dozens of enthusiastic professionals eager to pitch in and use their years of training and expertise to help the school and its students.
In the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 74, which governs vocational technical education in the Commonwealth, Chapter 6 states: “Each school district, county agricultural school, collaborative or municipality operating an approved vocational-technical program shall, under a plan approved by the commissioner under the direction of the state board, appoint advisory committees composed of representatives of local business and industry related to the program, organized labor, parents and students, which shall consult with and advise the trustees and other school officials managing and supervising such schools.”
The Advisory Boards of each of Blue Hills Regional’s 17 technical programs typically meet twice annually, in the fall and spring, for a dinner followed by meetings of individual Advisory Boards. The professionals on these Boards advise the school on key issues such as curriculum, the latest equipment, industry trends and best practices, and assist in ensuring that the students get the most useful, state-of-the-art instruction possible. The active participation of the Advisory Board members in the educational process at Blue Hills Regional is an illustration of the extremely valuable, ongoing connection between business/industry and the school.
Principal Geoffrey Zini delivered opening remarks in which he lauded technical education at Blue Hills for providing students with “real world applications, scenarios and experiences.”
Superintendent Jill Rossetti told the audience that there have been many significant changes since the last time they were last at Blue Hills. She was appointed Superintendent; Mr. Zini was appointed Principal; Dr. Paul Bavuso was hired as the new Academic Director; and the renovation project was transforming the building substantially and was in its final stages. One thing Superintendent Rossetti said would not change, however, was the close and valuable relationships with representatives of local and regional business and industry, which are vital to our students’ education. “Your involvement with our school is of the utmost importance,” she said emphatically. Superintendent Rossetti thanked Vocational Director Michelle Sylvia and her assistant, Ms. Deb Beane, for doing a great job of organizing the event, Maintenance for the set-up, and the Culinary students and teachers and cafeteria workers for the excellent meal and food presentation.
Vocational Director Sylvia said that “Vocational education is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where students come to learn a trade in one of the 17 state-of-the-art vocational programs that we offer. We strive to keep pace with the economy. We produce graduates who have choices and have a competitive advantage. Our students choose to go into their trade or into an apprentice program. Many choose to further their skills by going on to college. Yet others choose the military. Blue Hills works to tailor a students’ track to success. This is done by offering rigorous academic courses which include several AP courses in conjunction with the skills learned in our vocational programs.”
Ms. Sylvia also mentioned that Blue Hills was awarded just over $240,000 in Perkins Grant money which will be allocated to the following: Culinary will get two new service stations and a Dough Divider, Auto Collision has a new Hunter Alignment Machine, Cosmetology is getting vented manicure stations, Health Assisting just acquired a new curriculum called Health Center 21 as well as an allocation of $75,000 for the SimMan, an advanced patient simulator. Electronics will get a 3D printer, and a number of professional development opportunities are present for our teachers.”
General Advisory Board Chair Linda Wirta said her goal is to attain a 75% Advisory Board members participation rate “on a consistent basis.” She also reviewed newsworthy developments in the economy, especially those that may affect our students and graduates, and she wished our new Superintendent and Principal, Ms. Rossetti and Mr. Zini, respectively, the best. (Ms. Wirta served on the Superintendent Search Committee earlier this year.) She mentioned that during recent technical program visits, she noticed three things from the students and teachers: “a great sense of pride in their work and their new surroundings, relief that the [renovation] construction is coming to an end, and excitement for what potentially lies ahead.” Ms. Wirta said that a Handbook has been compiled for Advisory Board members, and she thanked Vocational Director Sylvia for taking the lead on this endeavor. “As always, “Ms. Wirta concluded, “we will continue to strategize best practices for our Advisory Committees.”
Christopher Alcimbert of Randolph, a junior in Cosmetology who is the SkillsUSA State Vice President said, “The vocational programs have the ability to pull the leader out of each and every one of us. Vocational schools give students the chance to prepare for the real world of work while we also earn a high school diploma. The reason why I came to Blue Hills and chose Cosmetology is because I have a true passion for cosmetics and fashion. In the future, I plan to further this education by getting my cosmetology license and then attending college to major in dermatology. Eventually I hope to become a dermatologist, carrying and using my leadership and entrepreneurial skills to open my own practice. I can pursue these dreams while earning excellent wages in my vocation. This dream is made obtainable, not only just through my program, but also thanks to SkillsUSA.”
There were two very special moments during the early portion of the evening that no one in the throng will soon forget. One was the introduction of Mr. Bernard H. Baher, a retired engineer from Avon, who, at the age of 99, is still a vital and highly respected part of Blue Hills just as he has been since the school was founded 53 years ago.
As Ms. Sylvia explained when she introduced him, Mr. Baher—whom she affectionately calls “Mr. Bernie” - retired as the Avon representative to the Blue Hills Regional District School Committee in 1987 after serving in that capacity for 22 consecutive years. (Mr. Baher was one of the members of the original Blue Hills Regional District School Committee. He was its chairman three times.) He helped start the Blue Hills Foundation, and was its president from 1989 to 2005, installed the school budget in a computer and instructed the school’s business manager on the budget program, repaired the handsomely crafted flagpole eagle outside the school, which he created, three times, consulted with school officials on an occasional basis, made presentations to Blue Hills’ Engineering students from 2005 to the present, and is an Advisory Board member for the Engineering program.
A longtime advocate of vocational education, Mr. Baher was appointed Chairman of the National Council on Vocational Education by President George H.W. Bush and served until it was abolished by Congress in 1991. Everyone in the Blue Hills Regional community is extremely grateful to Mr. Baher for his tireless advocacy for this school and for career and technical education.
Student Domenic Schiavo of Norwood, a senior in Auto Collision Repair & Refinishing, was introduced. He entered a SkillsUSA competition in Collision repair last year and won at the district level, at the State level, and then in Kentucky at the National level, he placed sixth in his field. “Dom is always very professional,” said Ms. Sylvia, “and has taken on a lot of important projects in Collision Technology. His instructor, Dwight Seaman, knows he can rely on Dom to get the job done and done well.” In recognition of his excellence and his achievements, Dom was presented with a new ratchet set from Snap-On Tools.