EDITOR'S NOTE: A recent story in a local newspaper criticized many Cape school districts for denying access to eighth graders by the two vocational-technical high schools’ counselors.
In the interest of fairness, Cape Cod Today has contacted the districts that were singled out for blocking access to Cape Cod Regional Tech’s counselors/recruiters.
We offered each district’s superintendent an opportunity to be heard on this topic, either in the form of a virtual interview or a statement to be printed verbatim.
The second superintendent to respond was Carol Woodbury of Dennis-Yarmouth. Ms. Woodbury’s statement is reproduced below exactly as she submitted it to us. You may make a comment on this interview below.
Competition, Choice, and Changing Demographics
Sometime after my arrival at Dennis-Yarmouth more than eight years ago I had the good fortune to hear Peter Francese, noted demographics expert, speak at Cape Cod Community College. He warned of a declining and aging Cape Cod population. Much of what he predicted has come to pass.
The impact this is having on Cape Cod schools is significant. Fewer young adults mean fewer school age children. The last ten years have seen a decline of over eight thousand school age children living on Cape Cod. In this age of choice as our population declines the competition for students increases.
This does not mean that we should prevent students and families from understanding their choices. It is not uncommon today to see and hear advertisements for public schools trying to encourage families to learn about what they offer. It is also common for families to receive mailings from schools. Our families receive such mailings from Cape Cod Tech and are invited to visit to learn about the school.
However, there are other pressures on schools including ensuring all students perform at the highest levels to be career and college ready. We simply live in a different world than when we grew up. Despite these increased demands students still go to school the same number of hours and days that we did when I was a child. At Dennis-Yarmouth we pride ourselves on the wide range of electives and related arts offered at every level. To fit it all in to this short day we have to be selective about how students spend their limited amount of school time. Our Wixon Innovation School has a longer school day to ensure each student’s academic success while providing a wide range of opportunities to learn a language, play an instrument, create art, and devote time to developing healthy bodies.
I have long been a supporter of technical education. My four brothers received such an education in another state and are very successful today. When I was in Western Massachusetts Superintendent Gerry Paist and I were great friends and partners. When I run into him at conferences he still talks about how well we worked together.
Several years ago, while Bill Fisher was Superintendent at Cape Cod Tech we stopped having our entire eighth grade visit the school. Time away from school was the primary reason for eliminating the visits. After trying it for a year I asked Superintendent Fisher if he felt it was having an impact on his enrollment. He did not feel that it was.
Examining the data tells the whole story. The phrase I would like to use to describe what is happening is “All boats float at the same level.” This means that as all districts on the Cape are seeing declines in students, so will the tech schools. There are only so many students. The chart below shows how many Dennis-Yarmouth eighth grade students have gone to Cape Cod Tech in the last ten years.
The first two columns represent the number of grade 8 students enrolled in Dennis-Yarmouth on June first. The next two columns show how many of the total grade 8 class enrolled in Cape Cod Tech as ninth grade students. The next column shows what percent of the total number of grade 8 students are enrolled at Cape Cod Tech. The last column is the total number of Dennis-Yarmouth students attending Cape Cod Tech on October 1 of that year. While the numbers have fluctuated the overall percent of the grade 8 students going to the tech school from Dennis-Yarmouth is relatively constant.
Last spring, Principal Jenks and I met with Superintendent Sanborn and the Principal Teranova to discuss our partnership and possible ways to increase the number of students that can take advantage of all a tech school has to offer. We also shared concerns over what we could do to help students who wanted to attend but were not accepted. We are encouraged by these conversations. We may have to start thinking a little differently. Where I came from the students received their academic education at their home school and their tech education at the tech school. We might want to think about how to make that work here. Another possibility is making tech schools part of a district, collaborative, or a magnet school managed by the districts.
These ideas might help us to share resources.
Last Friday Superintendent Sanborn called me to say that the Cape Cod Times had called him.
When I got back to him last Monday he indicated that much of what he had to say had not made the paper. I appreciated the heads up and I believe that call is indicative of the partnership between Dennis-Yarmouth and Cape Cod Tech.
Submitted by Carol A. Woodbury, Superintendent, Dennis-Yarmouth