This fall, Jordan Montgomery will start his first year at Mohawk Valley Community College with nine college credits, launching him even closer to his dream - working in the criminal justice field.
The 18-year-old Clayville resident attributes this success to being in the criminal justice program at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES while attending Sauquoit Valley High School.
"What didn't I learn?" said Montgomery, who is a correction officer at the Oneida County jail. "I tried to use the OHM BOCES to help me learn more to help me get into the law enforcement field."
But the BOCES that Montgomery - who hopes to get a bachelor's and master's degree - knows is much different than when the center started 65 years ago.
"This isn't your father's BOCES," said Howard Mettelman, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES district superintendent.
Once used mainly for special education services and career and technical programs, BOCES statewide now offer everything from technology services to teacher training, business services to courses for college credit.
And it's no longer about getting a certificate and going into the workforce. BOCES programs are now preparing students for further education. About 75 percent of its career and technical program graduates go on to a two- or four-year school.
Plus, as districts continue to face financial hardships such as a state-mandated tax cap, rising costs and insufficient state aid, BOCES will grow more crucial for area schools.
"It's getting bigger because schools are getting smaller," said Mark Vivacqua, Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES district superintendent. "BOCES is a way to consolidate services short of districts merging."
In the case of Owen D. Young Central School District, the business official, Committee on Special Education chairperson and even the superintendent are shared through the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES. "You're talking about a consolidation of expertise that districts on their own simply couldn't do in an affordable fashion," said Ken Slentz, state deputy commissioner for prekindergarten through 12 education.
Temporary to vital
Created in 1948 through state legislation, the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES was one of the first in the state.
BOCES, or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, were created to help rural districts improve education by pooling their financial resources, according to the state.
It was supposed to be temporary to oversee the consolidation of districts, Vivacqua said.
Instead, it stood on its own as a service provider.
Many local districts are part of consortiums through BOCES, acquiring services such as health insurance at a cheaper rate. And the more rural districts are using BOCES for day-to-day services such as a central business office.