While it is disappointing to learn that the ambitious Pittsfield School Committee proposal to offer 15 vocational-technical courses at a new Taconic High School is not likely to pass muster with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), it is better to hear this sooner rather than later. School officials can now revisit the list based on whatever has been learned over the past year about where jobs are emerging and will emerge in the vocational-technical industry.
Drummey, Rosane, Anderson of Waltham, the design firm charged with exploring options for the new school, believes there will not be enough vocational enrollment over time at the school to justify the construction cost and equipment required. That would make 15 courses unfeasible, and the curriculum must be determined for design work to go ahead. It may be that 15 courses would prove feasible but that would be a gamble on the city's part. As Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless sagely observed Wednesday, the city should not be "at loggerheads with the MSBA over the number."
On last Sunday's Eagle editorial page, Patrick Dillon, a Pittsfield resident with about 40 years experience in the manufacturing industry, wrote in a letter to the editor that counter to prevailing wisdom there are good jobs available in that field, including in this region. Most of them, and certainly the ones that pay the best, now require advanced skills that vocational-technical schools must provide. To whatever extent possible, that is where school officials should focus in drawing up a more modest Taconic curriculum.