Opinion: Closing the Diversified Occupations program doesn’t make any sense

I don’t understand why there is any discussion about closing the Diversified Occupations (DO) program. Let me state first that I have no “stake” in DO. I’m not a parent, a former student, a teacher or a service professional with connections to the program, nor do I have friends who work there. I was an itinerant ESL teacher for the district for about 10 years, however, and I saw students consistently succeed, often beyond what I would have thought possible, and I still see that success everywhere I go in the community.
What has prompted me to write this letter, however, is the several hours I recently spent with the Addison Central Supervisory Union Strategic Plan. I publish a quarterly newspaper in Salisbury to let residents know about local issues and events, and I attended the meeting in Weybridge where DO parents, students and teachers spoke passionately about their commitment to DO. I also heard what the program costs and that it is the state that is pushing to “mainstream” DO students.
As I read the (excellent) Strategic Plan, however, I realized that DO fits the goals, strategies and practices written into that plan better than any program in the schools: It uses local social service agencies, connects to the community, serves the business community, creates engaged citizens and educates students using research-based best practices and assessments more deeply and consistently than any program in the district.
So is the Strategic Plan just a bunch of pretty words contrived to support a tax-cutting measure, or are we going to live up to its promises?
I believe the district and the community need to fight for this program and thus for all of the pieces of the plan in the interest of ALL students. If expense is a problem, perhaps some of the funding can come from other sources. After all, DO demonstrably saves money — and students — in the long run, and the real implementation of the Strategic Plan will do the same.
Rebecca Holmes

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