WESTMINSTER — James L. LaBarre, Carroll's diesel mechanics instructor, knows too well the stigma attached to students who attend the county's vocational-technical facility.
"There's this thought that if you can't do anything else, you're in the vo-tech programs, and that's just not true," he said.
To improve the image of vocational education and better reflect technological changes in the workplace, the county Board of Education is considering changing the facility's name to the Carroll County Career and Technology Center.
The board received a report on the proposed name change for the Carroll County Vocational-Technical Centers at its January meeting. The board is expected to act on the proposal at its regular meeting Wednesday.
"The vo-tech program is so wonderful," school board member Cheryl A. McFalls said after receiving thereport. "It loses credibility with the community because of its name. (The change) will give it some of the credibility it deserves."
The change, recommended by the Vo-Tech School Improvement Committee, parallels the name change of the State Department of Education's Division of Vocational-Technical Education. It is now the Division of Career and Technology.
The school improvement task force recommended in a lengthy report issued last fall that the system consider changing the facility's name to improve the image of vocational education and reflect technological changes in the workplace.
Other school systems across the state have changed the names of their vo-tech centersto reflect the variety of programs and the use of technology in their classrooms. Many have incorporated names to include career and technology education or applied-technology education.
The changes havebeen encouraged by the Commission on Vocational-Technical Education,which was appointed by the state schools superintendent in 1988. Thecommission recommended that the names should reflect a focus on the future, particularly in preparing students for job changes throughouttheir careers.
"The previous name suggested specific training," said Lynne Gilli of the Career and Technology Division. "The name changeprojects an image of preparing students for careers, not jobs, and the need to be aware of technology in today's working world."
Robert L. Gebhart, principal of the Carroll vo-tech center, said that when the facility opened in 1971, its goal was to prepare students with marketable skills.
"Now, we're educating students for changes in their careers," he said. "The average person changes jobs five times during a career. We're more concerned with educating people over a lifetime and not just for one career."
Said Gilli: "We're not training students, we're educating them for life -- beyond work, how to get along with people, solve problems and how to communicate effectively."
Gebhart said the name change plan has been overwhelmingly accepted by the school's staff and students.
If approved by the school board, the name will not be changed until the start of the next fiscal year, July 1.
"We didn't think it would be fair to seniors to change the namejust months before they graduate," Gebhart said, noting time will beneeded to change stationery, envelopes and other business-related materials.