Orleans/Niagara BOCES celebrates 65th anniversary

Posted 3 March 2021 at 10:35 am

Organization that serves 13 school districts has responded to Covid challenge from many fronts

Press Release, Orleans/Niagara BOCES

Photos from the Orleans/Niagara BOCES: The diesel technology program has been offered at the Orleans/Niagara BOCES since the 1960s.

As Orleans/Niagara BOCES celebrates its 65th anniversary, it is also marking a year of dealing with the challenges of providing educational services during a pandemic.

As hands-on and classroom learning went to an all virtual format last March, the summer found District Superintendent Dr. Clark Godshall and the Board of Education making the decision to go back to a five day in-school format for the fall under the safety protocols.

“The efforts of our BOCES staff was admirable and our technology staff went above and beyond to make sure we had the resources to help with their goal to continue in-person and virtual education and providing services,” Godshall said. “The bottom line is we know that the students had to be in school and get the rigor to not only help them educationally, but mentally and socially as well, while adhering to all safety requirements.”

While periodically classes are shut down for quarantining when a positive case or exposure occurs with students or staff, the model has been successful and has received positive feedback from students, parents and the Orleans/Niagara BOCES’ component districts.

“We are very proud of this model and the support of our staff,” Godshall said. “I think it shows how important BOCES is to the community in our career and technical education programs, adult education, special education, safety risk and instructional services.”

Across the state, BOCES are the unsung heroes that need to be recognized. New York State policymakers over 65 years ago had the foresight to build a shared service model into the fabric of our public education system in the form of BOCES – a shared service program with highly trained specialists who would be available to component school districts to improve the quality and depth of learning for students.

To provide some history, the BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) was established in 1948 as a way for school districts to work together and provide services that would be difficult and more expensive for them to offer on their own.

This has grown to 37 BOCES across the state that provide hundreds of programs and services, from career and technical education to health and safety services to support in areas such as computer networks, human resources and teacher training. Orleans/Niagara BOCES was established on January 6, 1956.

Some of the current students in the diesel technology program at the Orleans Career & Technical Center in Medina include Jacob McEwen, David Rhim Jr, Jacob Dickson, Jacob Draper and Aidan Pearson.

During the pandemic, New York State has perhaps needed BOCES more than ever. BOCES has been there as a role model for service delivery under strenuous safety protocols. When schools needed to mobilize to efficiently get laptop devices to students and internet connectivity to families in need, BOCES was there. According to BOCES of New York State, BOCES were involved in the procurement of more than 172,000 computers, tablets and laptops for students across the state this past year.

“As our state dealt with the worst public health crisis in a century, administration and staff assisted in ‘flipping’ to virtual instruction, conducting Covid screenings, maintaining logs for  contact tracing, quarantining when needed and adhering to compliance requirement from federal, state and local levels,” said Orleans/Niagara BOCES Board of Education President Ed Grabowski.

Schools who needed to train teachers in distance learning had someone to turn to thanks to BOCES’ Professional Development teams. When schools started reopening last fall, BOCES provided 5,800-plus professional development opportunities, according to BOCES of New York State. Thanks to BOCES, New York’s students are learning, connected with their teachers and classmates and other critical services.

“We have always been a place where public schools can turn to for solutions and we are proud to have been able to assist during this pandemic,” Grabowski said.

Many of our staff members also provided assistance in other ways as well. Teachers used their classrooms’ 3D printers to produce facemasks and shields for healthcare workers, a group of students in our Fashion Design program sewed multiple masks to distribute to the community and not to mention the thousands of masks, gowns, soap, sanitizer and gloves that administration donated to local hospitals from their own medical programs. BOCES continues to be there to help their communities.

The one bright spot of the COVID-19 crisis, is that it has reinforced the saying that “We’re all in this together!” BOCES has been around for more than seven decades, and in the past year has demonstrated why we are so fortunate to have this resource in New York.

Orleans/Niagara BOCES is now celebrating their 65th year of serving their 13 school districts and could not be prouder to do so. Congratulations to all the staff, administration and Board of Education members who have made it a success through their hard work, commitment and passion for education!