WESTFIELD – The annual Westfield School Committee and Westfield Technical Advisory Board joint meeting on Monday began in Tiger’s Pride, and then transitioned as members and guests were split into groups to visit the technical shops. Each group visited four shops, where instructors and advisory board members highlighted their programs as well as their needs to the visitors.
In Collision Technology, lead instructor Roger Cardin and Advisory Board chair Gary Cloutier met Group 2 in their classroom, pointing out the noise of the overhead fan and the poor lighting. “The noise is not conducive for a learning environment,” said Cardin. He said the shop also needs new paint and new lighting.
Cardin said they have received a Perkins grant for $7,159 to purchase a paint drying system to help them move to water-based paint for the cars, which is more environmentally sound, but requires the drying system. He said students are still taught to use solvents and other materials being used in the field. The class also teaches welding.
Another item they would like to buy is a Virtual Paint Trainer for ninth and tenth graders, which cost $30,000. Cardin said it would cut down on the cost of paint used in practice. Cloutier said paint is one of his biggest expenses at Cloot’s Auto Body. Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said it might save money in the long run to buy the virtual trainer, and suggested bringing the request to the School Committee.
Cardin noted that David Doiron, a senior in Auto Collision last year, received gold in the Westfield Mass SkillsUSA competition, and silver in the state competition.
In Automotive Technology, Steve DeLusa, Service Advisor for Marcotte Ford in Holyoke talked about the great program at the school. He said Marcotte employs a graduate from the program who is on his way to being a top-notch Ford technician. He also said auto technology is in high demand nation-wide, and has the potential earning of $80,000 to $85,000 a year.
Instructor Dustin Raney, who teaches ninth and twelfth grades, reviewed program highlights, including a recent win in the national Cengage Learning “Show Your Shop” Competition. He said one student will be receiving a $1,000 scholarship from the competition.
Auto Tech senior Kyle Hadley also won a silver medalist at the SkillsUSA state competition last year, and went on to compete in the national competition, placing in the top half. Raney said this year three seniors will be participating in SkillsUSA.
Seven students are also participating in the Mass. State Automobile Dealers Association (MSADA) Auto Tech Competition. He said the students have completed the written test, and are waiting to see if they will be invited to the hands-on test. Top scorers can also go to a national competition.
Head teacher Charles Pignatare said the shop had recently spent $6,000 to repair the lifts which are certified safe, but will need to be replaced. He said they are looking at fundraising for lifts over the next several years.
Both Collision Technology and Automotive Technology work on cars from the public at a reduced cost, and any money raised goes to the shops for supplies. Residents interested in bringing in their cars for work may contact the school.
Group 2 also visited the Culinary Arts shop, which had earlier catered the meeting in Tiger’s Pride. Advisory Board member and executive chef at WSU Mary Reilly, and WSU cook and graduate of the WTA Culinary Arts program Hector Miranda joined culinary instructors Philip Mucciarone and Eric Rogers in presenting the program. “Personally, I’m incredibly grateful,” said Reilly about having the resource so close to the university. “It’s a testament to what these two chefs are doing,” she added.
Reilly said last year WSU had several co-op students come, and next semester, two girls will be joining them who have expressed an interest in the bake shop. They will be doing production baking by scratch.
Miranda said currently there are seven former WTA students working in the kitchen, serving 2,000 meals per service per sous chef. Miranda said when he graduated from WTA, he went to another culinary program and studied in Italy. When he returned, he jumped on the advisory board. “I’m here, I want to help this program get better,” he said.
A discussion ensued on the age of kitchen equipment in the school, much of which Chef Mucciarone said he unboxed when he started 24 years ago, although he added that the walk-in freezer has been around a lot longer than that.
“There is equipment that needs improvements, upgrades. I’m impressed with what they do with what they have here,” Reilly said.
Mucciarone also talked about expanding the bake shop area, which is a revenue generator for the group, as are their catering services. He also invited the group to the Tiger’s Pride, which is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Group 2 next visited Graphic Arts, and were greeted by department head Matthew Seklecki, instructor Lyndsey Ruelle, student Payton MacTavish and new advisory board member, photographer Andrea York. Seklecki said York is helping them to work with STCC to bring digital photography into the program.
Ruelle said she is also working on developing a focus on all computer work, adding photography, animation and web design, in addition to the silk screening, sign making and vinyl lettering the shop does.
Payton MacTavish said she started an internship with The Westfield News Group this month, where she will be working on advertising design. Seklecki said the sign at the newsroom was created by several shops at the Technical Academy.
Seklecki said they are also dividing their print shop in half to build a radio and television production studio in conjunction with the city, which is opening a community television studio at the school.
Seklecki said that many of their students go on to STCC and HCC. They also go directly to work in local companies, such as Staples and Prolamina. Czaporowski said that he ran into former students at Staples in Westfield, where four are employed and spreading the word about Westfield Technical Academy.
Ruelle said she tells her students that every big company has in-house printing.