The vocational-technical education program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) is one thing that helps to set it apart from the private high schools threatening its survival.
But over the years, the program, dubbed "vo-tech" for short, has deteriorated into disorganization.
The school's overall curriculum restructuring has left the entire school in a state of flux. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for the vo-tech program, which faces larger and more serious structural problems.
One of the problems is its lack of consistent leadership. Over the last 15 years, the program has seen five different leaders come and go.
Vo-tech offers instruction in eight trades, from carpentry to graphic arts to auto mechanics. This fall has been a particularly rocky time for vo-tech.
The school year began with the revelation that more than 50 incoming ninth-graders had signed up to take technical classes not at CRLS, but at the Minuteman Vocational Technical Academy, a private school in Lexington.
School officials offered that option to eighth-graders for the first time last spring. But they only budgeted for 10 students, which translates into a shortfall for this year's school budget.
Then, last month, a state audit of CRLS' technical arts courses found violations in practically every area, from curriculum to safety procedures. Unless those problems are fixed by this spring, the state could decertify Cambridge's programs.
State Decertifies Programs at CRLSCiting safety violations, inadequate curriculum and uncertified teachers, state auditors have cancelled or placed on probation all of the vocational
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