Opinion: Diversified Occupations program has proven its worth

In reading the Sept. 3 article about the Diversified Occupations program I noticed a pattern. People quoted in the article who are involved in the program directly (staff and parents) and people who spent time with the program, resulting in a recognition of excellence by Vermont PBS, all talk about the students and their successes; quotes by the administrator, superintendents, and a board chairman had no mention of students.
I taught at Middlebury Union High School for over 20 years. Eighteen of those years I ran a foods class that integrated MUHS with the D.O.’s TGIF Café. High school students and D.O. students worked side by side with three teachers and some aides running this integrated program. David Adams (Addison Northeast Supervisory Union superintendent) said the D.O. program is outdated because it isn’t integrated into the mainstream. It is too bad that he discounts a multifaceted program for just one component, leaving me to wonder if he knows these students and the program.
Mainstreaming the general student population with high special-needs students would not be a problem if the taxpayers, administrators and educators of our communities are willing to pay for a mainstream program that educates students with interesting, hands-on, integrated learning, with very low student-to-teacher ratio, which is what the D.O. program provides for their students. Such an approach is costly but effective.
Another article in the same issue of the Addison Independent reported on Addison Central Supervisory Union’s educational road map outlining three overarching foundational goals of “educational success,” “involving the community” and “developing the appropriate educational systems and tools to further student success.” I suggest to ACSU to look in its own backyard because the D.O. program already succeeds at these goals.
Peter Ryersbach, Starksboro

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