Portland and Westbrook school officials are moving forward with plans to merge administration and educational programs for Portland Arts and Technology High School and the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center.

Their goal is to reduce administration at the two regional vocational schools, combine duplicated programs and expand the variety of courses offered to students from close to two dozen schools throughout southern Maine.

“It’s requiring some pretty amazing collaboration between Portland and Westbrook and it’s something no one else in Maine has attempted,” said Portland Superintendent Jim Morse. “But we have two schools within six miles of each other that are trying to do the same thing, and we should be working together.”

A task force representing each school recently completed a feasibility study on merging the schools’ leadership and governing boards. The panel issued a report last month that unanimously recommends developing a consolidation plan in the coming school year and moving forward with the merger in 2011-12.

The Portland School Committee will receive the report when it meets at 7 tonight in Room 250 at PATHS. The Westbrook School Committee will receive the report May 12.

Vocational education is one of several areas where Portland, Westbrook and South Portland school officials are investigating the potential for greater sharing and potential savings. Others are transportation, online education, multilingual education and staff development.

The merger of the two vocational schools would need approval from the state Board of Education and the Legislature, Morse said. It would produce a cooperative agreement outlining an administrative structure led by an executive director and two assistant directors. Now, each school has a director and an assistant director.

The merger could end up saving money, but proponents say that’s not the primary goal. PATH’s proposed budget for 2010-11 is $3.4 million, while the Westbrook school’s proposed budget is $2.3 million.

“It’s all about providing more services for our students, especially the students who would benefit from expanded career-education opportunities,” said Westbrook Superintendent Reza Namin.

The school in Westbrook has about 350 students, including some from Scarborough, Gorham, Windham, Raymond and the Bonny Eagle school district. PATHS has about 515 students from 23 public and private schools and educational programs.

Both vocational schools offer courses in carpentry, food services, automotives, health occupations and early childhood occupations.

PATHS also offers courses in welding, woodworking, masonry, plumbing and heating, landscaping, fashion marketing, dance, music, new media, robotics, marine- and recreational-vehicle repair, commercial art, graphic art and printing.

The Westbrook school offers courses in commercial-truck driving, heavy equipment operation, public safety, drafting, electricity, computer science, Web design, business management, marketing and office technology.

By consolidating duplicated programs, the schools would be able to develop new programs in emerging fields, Namin said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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