Erie 1 BOCES leaders spent Tuesday evening briefing the Sweet Home School Board on BOCES' efforts to further collaborate with Sweet Home and other districts.
Melody Jason, co-director of secondary and work force development at BOCES, outlined a few collaborative efforts to date, including an interagency agreement that has an Akron technology teacher instructing BOCES teachers on how to use the latest software, which saves on training costs.
"For too long, we have thought of ourselves as separate entities," she told board members. "We are truly an extension of your school."
BOCES has also made it a mission to help more of its students extend their education, Jason said. Agreements with dozens of colleges and universities to have them accept BOCES courses for college credit have helped more than 60 percent of BOCES students enter post-secondary institutions, she said.
"That's not the way BOCES was thought of in the past," she said. One such student, Sweet Home alumnus Andrew Santillo, has turned his BOCES success into a burgeoning pharmacology career. He participated in a BOCES health program that allowed him to work at Veterans Affairs Medical Center and gain invaluable hands-on experience, which he said came in handy while he earned a biology degree from D'Youville College.
"I would not have taken this road if I had not taken that program," said Santillo, a 2005 Sweet Home graduate who is about to begin his studies in D'Youville's pharmacy school. "I thought it was too hard for me, but here I am."
Erie 1 BOCES programs include automotive, criminal justice, graphic design and computer-aided drafting skills. The curriculum continually changes to meet current job market demands, Jason said.
"It is definitely not your father's BOCES anymore," said School Board Vice President Marianne Jasen, who recently toured BOCES' Ken-Ton facility. "These kids come out making pretty good money."
About 10 percent of Sweet Home juniors and seniors take part in BOCES, Superintendent Anthony Day said.
BOCES students exceed statewide averages on standardized English and math tests, Jason said.
Jason said she's working with all of the 23 districts served by Erie 1 BOCES to find ways to collaborate more and save everyone money.