By Janet Stoica
“It’s been a great 20 years,” said Superintendent John Lafleche as he reflected on his association with the Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District. His time spent at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton began with his appointment as Business Manager in 2000. He also served as Assistant to the Superintendent at that time.
“When I leave this position next August, it will be with the thought that Bay Path Regional has become a highly desirable school for the 10 towns who send their students here,” said Mr. Lafleche. “Our recent building renovations, additions, and updated equipment has made this building safer with asbestos removal, installation of a fire sprinkler system, and improved student, faculty, and administration security.
“Recently, we had 615 incoming freshmen apply for 325 available seats. There is a high level of interest in attending this school for the excellent vocational skills we offer. This isn’t a one-person show. No one can do this job alone. It’s like being a conductor of an orchestra. If you don’t have the right musicians, the music won’t blend. As an example, without Cliff Cloutier, our school principal and also a Bay Path graduate, we would not have achieved what we have with our students. Ownership of a school or town is so important. Successful managers believe in what they do and want to make their environment better.”
The school has come a long way in the time Superintendent Lafleche has been associated with its administration and staff. In 2012, after working closely with Dave Papagni, former superintendent to make his transition easier, Mr. Lafleche realized that one of the greatest things about the school was its school committee. Twenty members from the 10-town district have always seemed to know what was best for the district and its students. They all worked together for the benefit of the school.
One of the more challenging aspects of his job came in October 2012 when the state school funding organizations morphed and it meant that Mr. Lafleche and his group had to make individual presentations to all of the (then) seven towns’ select boards advising them of the costs for the school’s renovation and additions. It was quite a journey, with Bay Path also required to fund special elections in every sending town. The majority vote ruled with a 58% winning margin. The towns paid $27.6 million of the $73.3 million project.
The school also had to deal with a $5 million theft of district funds by a previous business manager, necessitating a restoration of their standing and confidence with the area towns.
“We’ve also done a lot of work on refreshing and changing our vocational programs,” said Mr. Lafleche. “We eliminated our small engine shop due to lack of interest and added two other new vocational programs: Dental Assistant and the ISSN program (Informational Support Services and Networking). The ISSN program teaches our students how to run medium and large computer networks, computer repair, and also introduces them to cyber security. Next year, we’ll be adding a Veterinary Assistant program. Our work co-op programs are very successful too, where our students spend time in the classroom and then time at jobs in their field. Last year, 165 students in the co-op program collectively earned $1 million. We’re very proud of them.”
Having a strong relationship with all 10 of the regional school’s towns is a large accomplishment for the district, according to the superintendent. “These towns own this school,” he said. “One area I’m most pleased with is that the integrity of our programs remains intact. We are a vocational school and we are dedicated to maintaining the soundness of our vocational programs. We’ve also brought AP courses to our school and if our students complete all of the college-level courses offered, they graduate with eight college courses completed.”
Mr. Lafleche has been in public service for 34 years, married for 35 years, and has a wife and “three outstanding children,” he says. He’s looking forward to hiking, traveling to visit his three grown children who live in various parts of the country and to “re-establishing a good sleep pattern. I’ve learned and done things I never expected.”
Superintendent Lafleche also volunteers on several local boards and serves as Treasurer of SkillsUSA Massachusetts, a partnership of schools, students, and industry showcasing student vocational talents.
Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School is located at 57 Old Muggett Hill Road in Charlton. Phone: 508-248-5971. They are a member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
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