HANOVER — A proposed horticulture curriculum at South Shore Regional Vocational Technical School has taken another step forward.
Science Department Chairman Matt Fallano gave a PowerPoint presentation to the SSVT District School Committee during its Wednesday, Nov. 16 meeting, outlining how the program would start by offering a landscaping program. No vote was taken on the proposal.
Scituate member John Manning, of the Capital Projects Subcommittee, reported that Fallano and the group has toured facilities at a couple vocational schools that offer horticulture programs. School officials have met with counterparts at Silver Lake and Upper Cape regional schools regarding the cost and logistics of starting such a program.
All specializations would cover botany as well as soil properties and sciences, according to Fallano, who noted that small engine maintenance would also be covered.
“Right off the bat, if you’re starting to think what kind of jobs [are students being trained for], you can imagine what sort of background could be used or applied for,” he said.
The landscape and turf management program would include instruction on safety, design and estimation, maintenance and installation as well as turf management practices. Arboriculture, or tree sciences, would involve safety, equipment standards, tree climbing, tree maintenance and removal. Floral design and interior landscaping would teach greenhouse management, production and floriculture business operations.
“We would never start off with all three of them, so what we’re looking at is the soil sciences to begin with,” Fallano said. “You would not get this type of training at any other normal sending school. It’s perfect for a vocational-based school.”
It would eventually be a training ground for students interested in careers such as hardscape designers or architects, greenhouse and grounds workers, arborists, nursery or turf grass mangers and even farm managers.
“There’s a big push for small farms in the local area,” he said. “Having a resource that those farms can reach out to has been a [goal] for this area.”
There is also no feeder program for local horticulture businesses and a program at SSVT can also lead to college degrees. Students can also graduate with licenses or the bookwork for a license test when they are 18. That can boost earning potential.
Fallano also touched on the credentials the district should look for in a program director and committee concerns about accreditation. Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas Hickey is also looking toward grants to help fund the program startup.
Committee Chairman Robert Molla of Norwell indicated the start-up cost estimate would be included in preliminary fiscal 2018 budget figures when the committee meets again on Wednesday, Dec. 21.
In other business, Principal Margaret Dutch reported the MCAS performance of SSVT students in the Class of 2018 has been akin to moving mountains, describing how it translates to a graph.
“Because we are a regional school, we do not educate anybody until they get to grade nine,” Dutch said. “We take our students as they come from the eight sending towns, and wherever else they come from, and we try and get everybody on the same page and get them ready in less than two years to be successful on MCAS.”
The current junior class had 51 students who had failed the exam in grade eight — the first “mountain” on the grade chart, Dutch said. As sophomores taking the MCAS exam at SSVT, the same class had shown vast improvement.
“We [had] decided there was something we needed to do in order to make sure we didn’t have 51 10th-graders failing the MCAS,” she said. Targeted remediation and working with teachers to address problem areas for those students made that improvement possible. The high point of the scores curve last year — the second mountain — showed an increase in higher scores over the class’ grade eight marks.
“We’re not trying to compare ourselves with anybody else or what anybody else is doing because we are a unique entity,” Dutch said. “We are very proud to know that our teachers, with targeted intervention, can move mountains.”
Whitman Committee member Daniel Salvucci reported on some of the innovative vocational school projects highlighted at the recent Massachusetts Association of School Committee conference. The projects were tiny houses built by Southeastern Vo-Tech in Easton; an applications project at Assabet Valley to show teachers how effective a lesson plan was by symbols scanned by a free app on a teacher’s smartphone; a veterinary program offered at Norfolk Aggie and Massasoit as well as the new Essex Agricultural and Technical High School’s teacher mentoring program.
Salvucci said the tiny house project was popular with students because of the size.
“What they liked about doing it is that you had carpenters and electricians working so close together that they taught each other, and they worked together,” he said.
The committee also recognized Abington Graphics Communications senior Ryan Glynn as November Student of the Month and English teacher Allison Provost as Staff Member of the Month.
“Ryan is a focused, high-achieving student in class, but is also a great and caring person,” one of Glynn’s teachers wrote.
Another nominated Glynn as a “great overall citizen of the [SSVT] community” another noted he is a well-liked student-athlete saying, “No one had had a bad thing to say about Ryan.”
Assistant Principal Mark Aubrey said Provost was the student’s honoree for Staff Member of the Month after only two months as a teacher at the school. She had been a student teacher at SSVT about 10 years ago.
“When students nominated her they spoke of her being ‘very helpful, patient and kind, is that not something we want from every person in our lives, not just our teacher,’” Aubrey said.