Prospective vocational school students toured different specialty areas at Nashoba Valley Technical High School during the regional school’s annual open house event on Sunday, Nov. 5.
Nashoba Valley Technical High School
WESTFORD — Nashoba Valley Technical High School is planning its annual Open House on Sunday, Nov. 5, from noon to 3 p.m., providing an opportunity for those interested in taking a closer look at the regional educational facility.
Prospective students, their families and members of the community are invited to tour the school, meet with academic and technical instructors, and see what extracurricular activities Nashoba Tech has to offer.
Students who are accepted to Nashoba Tech can select from 20 technical programs to study: Advanced Manufacturing; Automobile Collision Repair and Refinishing; Automotive Technology; Biotechnology; Carpentry; Cosmetology; Culinary Arts; Dental Assisting; Design and Visual Communications; Early Education and Care; Electrical Technology; Engineering Technology; Health Assisting; Hospitality Management; Marketing; Programming and Web Development; Plumbing and Heating; Robotics; TV and Media Broadcasting/Theater Arts; and Veterinary Science.
Nashoba Tech offers Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Early College, Dual Enrollment at several local colleges, and Cooperative Education, through which qualified students can work every other week in the field they are pursuing.
For more information, call 978-692-4711 or visit www.nashobatech.net. Nashoba Tech is at 100 Littleton Road (Route 110). Its district includes the towns of Ayer, Chelmsford, Groton, Littleton, Pepperell, Shirley, Townsend and Westford.
WESTFORD — Cosmo Cuts, the in-school hair and nail salon at Nashoba Valley Technical High School, will reopen for business on Oct. 25.
Members of the public can have their hair and nails done at Cosmo Cuts by juniors and seniors in the Cosmetology program.
Cosmetology instructor Sayda Betsold said work is underway on a new, state-of-the-art salon at Nashoba Tech that will be located across from the in-school restaurant, The Elegant Chef.
Betsold and new instructor Alicia Spinney are hoping the new salon is ready to use by Jan. 1. The current salon will be open until then to service customers. Juniors and seniors in the Cosmetology program are ready to cut and color your hair or give you a complete manicure.
To make an appointment, call Cosmo Cuts at 978-692-4711, ext. 16142.
(Courtesy Nashoba Valley Technical High School)
WESTFORD — The Elegant Chef is cooking again. And baking. And serving.
The award-winning, in-school restaurant at Nashoba Valley Technical High School is open for business for the new school year, and the public can finally come back for lunch Tuesday through Friday when school is in session.
This year, they’re kicking it up a notch, as seniors in Culinary Arts continue to develop their own menus as they make their culinary themes come true.
Chef-Instructor Paul Wilson started the practice last year, allowing seniors, all of whom in the school must complete a senior project, to come up with a theme, devise dishes based on the theme, and take charge of the kitchen.
“We’re trying to get the students prepared for the real world,” Chef-Inspector Carley Capraro said.
Toward that end, The Elegant Chef’s kitchen has seen some upgrades in the equipment that the staff and students use to cook meals for the public.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is introduce the students to as many ways to prepare food as we can,” Wilson said. “We have updated the technology with the ovens. They’re working with the type of equipment they’ll see in industry.”
Students in Culinary Arts work together with those in Hospitality Management to prepare and serve lunch to the public and to teachers in the school.
Chef-Instructor Jeremy Bussiere, who teaches the hospitality side, said this year he and his fellow instructors want to see the students up their game.
“Professionalism is a big part of what we’re doing,” Bussiere said. “Hospitality is one of the largest fields in the world, and we’re trying to get kids on more field trips to some local sites, like Great Wolf in Fitchburg, just to see what’s available to them in the field. We have a student working co-op at the front desk of the Boxborough Regency and another going out on co-op soon.”
The instructors are taking the school’s “Portrait of a Graduate” traits – responsibility, respect, resilience, resourcefulness and readiness – to heart.
“It’s about responsibility, readiness,” Bussiere said. “It really goes along with the Portrait of a Graduate.”
The Elegant Chef also provides catering for parties outside the school, and the bakery, which Capraro oversees, is expanding its Bagel Friday effort, preparing 5-8 varieties of bagel each week for pickup on Friday. The bakery is also expanding its bread offerings at the request of students, who enjoy making different varieties of bread.
“We’re trying to get these kids out in the workforce,” Wilson said. “You can’t really teach work ethic, but we try to instill in them the necessity of learning how to cook.”
The Elegant Chef is open to the public for lunch Tuesday through Friday, when school is in session, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call (978) 692-9958 to make a reservation or to order bagels by Wednesday for pickup Friday morning.
A catering menu is available at NashobaTech.net; go to the menu at the top right and find the subhead “Services,” then “Elegant Chef and Bistro,” go the bottom and then find the link labeled “View the Catering Menu.”
(Courtesy of Nashoba Technical High School)
WESTFORD — Makenna Pearlman, of Leominster, who earlier this year became the first female graduate of Nashoba Valley Technical High School to earn a journeyman electrician license, has been recognized nationally by a trade organization.
Pearlman, 23, is one of Electrical Construction & Maintenance’s 30 Under 30 Electrical All Stars.
Pearlman graduated from the Electrical Technology at Nashoba Tech in 2018, at which point she started working in the electrical industry. In 2020, she landed a job with Brattan Industries, a commercial electrical firm based in Littleton.
Robert Baker, an Electrical Technology instructor at Nashoba Tech, called Pearlman a “trailblazer” when she earned her journeyman license.
“I can now look my students in the eye and tell them, ‘Girls can do it, too. If you don’t believe me, ask Makenna Pearlman,’” Baker said.
Each year, Electrical Construction & Maintenance, or EC&M, selects its 30 Under 30 Electrical All-Stars from nominations received from across the country. The agency reported that it received a record number of nominations this year.
LOWELL — Two vocational technical high schools in Massachusetts are the target of a civil rights complaint regarding their admissions policies, which are practiced at nearly every other vocational school in the commonwealth.
The Vocational Education Justice Coalition — a collection of 20 civil rights groups, labor unions and community groups — filed a federal complaint Thursday with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state entity that establishes admissions guidelines at such schools.
The action takes aim at Montachusett Regional Vocational High School in Fitchburg and Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield for their use of a ranked admission system based on grades, attendance, recommendations and discipline.
All but two of the state’s 28 voc-tech schools use a similar ranking system. Marlboro’s Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School uses a lottery-based system, and Worcester Technical High School relies on a modified lottery, wherein applicants with 10 or fewer unexcused absences have the same chance of getting accepted.
At Greater Lowell Technical High School, 811 students of color applied for the 2022-2023 school year compared to 383 white students, according to admissions data. However, 64.5% of white students were accepted while just about 56% of students of color were offered admission, according to DESE.
That disparity is greater between low-income students and students who aren’t. A total of 715 financially disadvantaged students applied, 48% of whom were accepted. But 74.5% of their 479 wealthier peers who applied received an offer letter, according to that data.
Greater Lowell Tech Superintendent Jill Davis defended the school’s policies, stating they conduct blind admissions, offer tours and do not conduct interviews like other schools. The school uses criteria in a ranked admissions process including: attendance, grades, guidance recommendations and conduct.
When asked why there are particular disparities between certain demographics, as noted above, Davis said the data presented by the Vocational Education Justice Coalition is incomplete and should instead focus on the number of students enrolled.
For the current school year, Davis said 575 students enrolled, 378 of which are students of color and 197 who are white.
“We believe that our data and our student population is a diverse student population and it reflects our sending communities,” Davis said. “I think the real focus should be on that there are not enough seats to meet the demands for vocational education and we should be looking at other ways to expand the seats, or expand vocational technical education.”
Lisa Martinez, director of technology, enrollment and information at Greater Lowell Tech, said there are two times the school submits their admissions data, meaning there are “adjustments” that are made in the fall and errors that are corrected.
However, the numbers provided by the Vocational Education Justice Coalition and those on DESE’s website are exactly the same.
The data is also “skewed,” in part, due to COVID, Martinez said. The problem is that they can’t offer a spot for everyone — of the roughly 2,280 students currently enrolled, they have about 500 or so on the waitlist.
“We have limited seats, and we really make the best use of the resources we have and we try to make it as fair as possible for the students,” she said. “We have more students naturally applying and more kids applying than we can ever accommodate.”
Martinez said they can only speak on their own admissions policy, and neither she nor Davis commented on the complaint or other vocational schools.
Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, on the other hand, admitted 100% of students who applied, though just 308 students of color were eligible to apply in the first place, compared to 1,073 white students.
The data is similar at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford — while white students, students of color, financially disadvantaged students and non-disadvantaged students were all admitted roughly 80% of the time, 398 students of color were eligible to apply while 1,036 white students were.
For financially disadvantaged students, 255 could apply, but for students who are not classified as low-income, a total of 1,179 were eligible. That proportion is roughly equivalent for special education students versus non-special education students, according to the data.
Shawsheen Tech received 59 applications from students of color and 343 from white students for the current school year, according to that data, and about 80% of both groups, as well as about 84% of financially disadvantaged students and 79% of non-disadvantaged students, accepted the offer.
The complaint states that DESE allows voc-tech schools “to use admissions criteria that disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude students from protected classes.” That includes students of color, those with disabilities and English Language Learners. Four students, two from Chelsea and two from Gardner, are named in the complaint.
Low-income students are also considered a protected class.
Josue Castellon, a 16-year-old junior at Chelsea High School and youth peer leader at La Collaborativa, said at a State House press conference Thursday morning that he applied to Northeast Metro Tech, despite his counselor dissuading him to do so, and was denied. Castellon called the admissions process “completely biased” and one that fails to “reflect your value as a student.”
“Why is it that our futures are decided on middle school grades, discipline records, attendance and recommendations from people that may not even know us, instead of judging us purely on our show of potential and hard work and determination?” Castellon said. “This needs to change.”
Officials are recommending the use of a lottery system, which they deem more equitable, and are requesting the Board of Education in Massachusetts change the admission policy.
Steve Sharek, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, wrote in a statement that vocational-technical schools can’t accommodate all of the students looking to attend — 6,000 students are currently on waiting lists for such programs, which enroll about 55,000 students.
The organization supports bills that would invest $3 billion to expand MAVA schools and construct new ones, he wrote, and they’re hoping to make those schools more accessible “to a more diverse population of students.”
“Nearly 97% of the regional vocational-technical and agricultural high schools in Massachusetts have made changes in their admissions policies, practices, or staffing (in the past two school years),” Sharek wrote. “We’re seeing improvement.”
To continue making said improvement, Sharek said MAVA needs time to analyze the impact of the changes in admissions and a bigger presence in middle schools to educate students on their educational offerings. The investment bills, filed by Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxborough, and Reps. Frank Moran, D-Lawrence, and Adam Scanlon, D-North Attleborough, would grant them “access to all students” in middle schools.
Shawsheen Tech and Nashoba Tech officials did not respond to a request for comment before this article’s publication.