Ulster BOCES plans to take lead in science, technology programs
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Ulster BOCES is positioning itself to be a high-level science, engineering, math and technology hub for member school districts starting as soon as a year from now, according to Superintendent Charles Khoury.
Khoury said a number of advanced programs in those disciplines have low enrollment and that it may be difficult for individual school districts to sustain them over the next couple years under the state’s new property tax cap, despite their potential importance to the future of the region’s economy.
And Khoury indicated he is aiming higher than just sustaining programs districts already have.
Using some leftover grant money that his predecessor, Martin Ruglis, secured, Khoury and other officials have been visiting schools around the country with nationally known advanced science, engineering, math and technology offerings in an effort to gain ideas.
As impressive as he has found some of the work done by students in those programs, “when we leave places like that, I ask myself, ‘Are these kids any different than the kids in Ulster County?’” Khoury said. “I don’t think so.”
One program Khoury has seen up close is Project Lead the Way, a science, engineering, math and technology curriculum created by a Saratoga County-based nonprofit group that uses cutting-edge technology and works with companies to make sure offerings are relevant to the real-world workplace.
In December, a representative from the nonprofit group gave a presentation to the Onteora school board. The Wallkill school district currently uses Project Lead the Way, Khoury said, and to a limited degree, so does the New Paltz school district.
Other Khoury visited include the North Carolina School of Math and Science and Bergen County Academies in New Jersey. Khoury said that in Bergen County, the growth of the math, science and engineering school was controversial in its early phases because some school officials there saw it as “stealing their best students.” Khoury said schools like that are not for every student and that he sees them as a way to give new opportunities to students whose needs aren’t being met.
Everywhere he visits, Khoury said, he is told that successful science, engineering, math and technology programs start small, and “if the ground is fertile,” are able to grow. Any initiatives that the Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services spearheads would be driven by demand from member districts, he said.
Khoury hopes a two-week robotics camp that Ulster BOCES is hosting this summer will “whet the appetites” of parents and students for more of that type of learning. In conjunction with the camp, Khoury said, some teachers from member districts will receive training in project-based learning that they can bring back to their home districts.
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