School leaders to explore vocational opportunities

— A diverse group of education, business and community leaders is moving forward with plans to expand vocational opportunities for students in Routt and Moffat counties.

In a conference room at Yampa Valley Medical Center on Wednesday, the group of nearly 30 people discussed big ideas for expanding vocational education and the steps necessary to implement those ideas, which ultimately could include a regional vocational center for students throughout the Yampa Valley.

"We're starting to walk -- we're not running yet," Tim Gibbs, executive director of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership, said about the group's progress.

The group decided Wed-nesday that the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, will be the lead organization for a steering committee.

The steering committee will lead future efforts in planning, funding and curriculum development.

"I think that makes a lot of sense," Troy Zabel, principal of Hayden High School, said. "For the kind of work that needs to be done, a group this large can't do it."The group includes superintendents and administrators from the Steamboat Springs, Hayden, South Routt and Moffat County school districts; representatives from local business organizations including the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Colorado Workforce Center and The Industrial Company; officials with the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County; administrators with Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Northwest Community College, Northwest Colorado BOCES and more.

Members of the group who aren't also on the steering committee will be part of an advisory group that will meet less frequently and provide guidance to the steering committee. The steering committee will consist of representatives from each school district, the community colleges, BOCES and the business community.

Members of the steering committee will be chosen at the group's next meeting, which is scheduled for April 17.

Donna Howell, superintendent of Steamboat's public schools, said Rick Bettger is a good candidate for the committee's coordinator. That position also will be finalized April 17.

Now retired, Bettger worked for 11 years as the assistant director of instructional support services at Pickens Tech, a technical school associated with the Aurora School District outside of Denver.

Pickens Tech works with students from 35 metro-area schools, Bettger said.

He also is the coordinator of the TIC Summer Construction Institute, a weeklong camp in June that will give hands-on technical training and possible employment to area high school students. A recent orientation for the camp brought 23 students to TIC's facility in Steamboat, a turnout that Bettger said shows the support for vocational training in the Yampa Valley.

"There is a lot of energy behind this," Bettger said, calling the possibility of leading the group's efforts at regional vocational expansion an "exciting opportunity."

The group also is scheduled to meet May 15 and still has a long way to go before concrete plans begin to develop.

"Folks, it's going to be a lot of work," said Janet Bohart, a former educator serving as the group's facilitator.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail

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