By editorial board • 

In local districts, vo-tech gets respect it deserves

A feature story Tuesday detailed a new heavy equipment certification class being offered — to current students and recent grads alike — by the McMinnville School District.

The class features high-tech simulators designed to replicate the workings of graders, loaders, skidders, excavators, dozers and other pieces of heavy motorized equipment used in logging, farming, roadbuilding and construction.

Then it lets students try their hand at the real thing. What’s more, it has them engaged in real work — helping convert a former hazelnut orchard into a farm field out by Grandhaven Elementary, the first step in preparation for its eventual use as a middle school site.

The program is being funded through a grant from the Willamette Workforce Partnership and conducted through the Baker Technical Institute. Several organizations are collaborating in it, including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and Youth Opportunity Occupations Program, known as YOOP. 

News out of American schools today sometimes seems to take one of two tracks:

n Academic achievement, advanced placement, early college credit, STEM and TAG, scholarship aid and other indicators of elite, high-achieving students bound for college and beyond.

n Fears that a “woke” culture is indoctrinating students with liberal values, thus serving to undermine patriotism and the work ethic — fears triggering purges of books, posters, subjects, themes, classes and discussions deemed suspect, even math texts and literary classics. 

We can’t speak for every nook and cranny of this land of ours, but we can speak for our corner of it. And the fact is, our corner of it has been forthrightly and effectively advancing the cause of technical and vocational career education for at least two decades now.

Rural districts like Dayton, Amity and Perrydale have developed innovative, cutting-edge ag programs. The Yamhill-Carlton School District has developed an ag program focusing on a unique local strength — the wine industry.

Throughout the county, districts are offering practical, career-oriented training. They are offering it not only in farming, but also in welding, auto mechanics, hospitality, tourism, diesel mechanics, woodworking, construction, child care, fire science, carpentry, steel fabrication, health services, culinary arts, truck driving and other disciplines where a new generation of workers is urgently needed.

In the vast majority of cases, the districts are finding enthusiastic local partners in the business community, partners like Solid Form Fabrication, Stoller Family Estate, Cascade Steel, A-dec, Ken Wright Cellars, Meggitt Polymers & Composites, Climax Machine Tools and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. 

Employers are increasingly desperate for skilled workers and more than willing to do their part in priming the pump at the high school and college levels. They are willing to provide money, manpower, equipment, expertise and guidance.

To their credit, local districts have been responding in kind.

Sheridan recently opened the Barbara Roberts Career Technical Education Center to host its expanding array of openings. Meanwhile, the McMinnville and Yamhill-Carlton districts recently made new vo-tech or CTE families centerpieces in successful bond campaigns. 

Sometimes malignant disinformation campaigns deployed in the political arena unfairly sour us on pillars of our governmental infrastructure. Culture war infighting has grown particularly virulent in recent years, and our public schools have become an inviting target for some of the leading protagonists. 

In truth, our schools are doing everything possible to turn our children into thoughtful, useful and productive citizens — citizens capable of making their way successfully in this democracy of ours.

We ought to do everything possible to support that effort in return. It is incumbent on us to recognize that good people are doing good things in our schools.



"In truth, our schools are doing everything possible to turn our children into thoughtful, useful and productive citizens — citizens capable of making their way successfully in this democracy of ours." Let us hope this continues to be the case. A peaceful and productive workplace and a democracy depend on respect for a multi-cultural society.