The following was submitted by Judy Bass, communications specialist for Minuteman High School.
As in Lexington continued to celebrate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, the school welcomed Mitchell D. Chester, state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, for a visit.
His afternoon at Minuteman began with a festive lunch in the school’s outstanding student-run restaurant, the Fife and Drum, where he was joined by Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillon, Interim Principal / Director of Community Education Ernest F. Houle, several other educators and three exceptional students in their junior year: Anthony Senesi of Arlington (Environmental Technology), Lisa Willms of Arlington (Culinary Arts), and Christine Hamilton of Stow (Environmental Technology).
The discussion during lunch was wide-ranging and lively, with Chester enthusiastically asking all those around the table about Minuteman’s challenges, successes, plans and goals. Many key topics arose: how are students assisted with time management; the level of state-of-the-art technology throughout the school; what is done to attract prospective students; the situation regarding special education at Minuteman; and smoothly transitioning students from middle school to high school. That one was fielded by Lisa Willms, who emphatically declared Minuteman “a good atmosphere for students to come into.”
Chester was especially impressed by the remarkable caliber of the three students at the lunch, and asked each one to describe his or her future intentions. Senesi, who is Class President and State Parliamentarian of SkillsUSA, wants to pursue environmental planning or policy and perhaps join the Environmental Protection Agency. Willms is possibly headed for Johnson & Wales University to study baking and pastry arts as preparation for someday owning her own bakery or restaurant. And Hamilton sees herself focusing on biology in college and becoming a research biologist.
Many positive changes were mentioned that have occurred at Minuteman in recent years, according to those present. Principal Houle cited a more collaborative approach being used. Superintendent Bouquillon noted the fact that Minuteman has art, music and training in three languages available for students, including Latin.
“Not many vocational schools have that,” he said, “but we felt it was a priority.”
Following lunch, the group adjourned to a conference room, where several staff members animatedly talked to Chester about the all-important integration of academics and technical instruction at Minuteman, and showing students how to put both areas of learning into practical, everyday action.
Chef Joe Pitta, cluster chair for Human and Commercial Services, said he and the culinary students work closely with the science instructors on various assignments such as coming up with healthy recipes for people with gout, or just generally creating healthy options. They were tasked with devising new approaches to fettucine alfredo, for instance, featuring sauces for this classic dish with both reduced fat and vegan-style ingredients.
Pitta also mentioned that the Culinary Arts program collaborates with Minuteman’s Horticulture program which grows salad greens for meals.
At the end of this session, Chester and his Minuteman hosts took a tour of some of the technical programs including Biotechnology, Engineering, Environmental Technology, Carpentry, Electrical Wiring, HVAC & R, Welding, and Automotive Technology for the high school students and postgraduates. The students and teachers he met spoke of what they do in an upbeat, energized way that conveyed their excitement.
Chester departed from Minuteman that day with a very favorable impression of the school. “I was very impressed with the dedication [of the Minuteman staff] in providing the students with high-quality academic and vocational-technical career education,” he said.