NAPLES — David Morse grew up in Gray, and after 20 years living and working in northern Maine, he’s made his way back to the area as the the new director at the Lake Region Vocational Center.
Morse, who turns 52 this month, spent the last 12 years as director of the St. John Valley Technology Center, which serves Fort Kent, Madawaska and Wisdom high schools. Before that, he and his wife, Brigitte, worked with teenagers in group homes, which is how they wound up in Aroostook County.
He replaces longtime director Rosie Schacht, who retired this year. Morse says that Schacht has helped in the transition as he leads a group of 19 staff at the center, which has an enrollment of just under 290 students. The vocational center’s first day of classes is Sept. 6, and other SAD 61 schools started on Aug. 30.
Morse, now living back in Gray with his wife, spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about the position he started on July 1.
Q: Is it good to be back?
A: It is, yeah. I enjoy it. It was nice up north, but it’s very nice to be here, too – especially with family around.
Q: You’re filling the shoes of someone who had been here for a couple years. So is that a bit of a daunting task?
A: Rosie Schacht had been here for 25 years. Rosie really did a tremendous job here. The school is in great shape, there are excellent programs, excellent staff, and Rosie set things up very well. My plan is to keep that legacy moving forward, and keep providing students with an excellent education.
Q: Can you talk about the various avenues that students have to choose from at the vocational center?
A: We offer diversified occupations, and that’s for 8th-, 9th- and 10th-year students who want to explore various occupations and sort of develop a sense of what they might want to study and what sort of track they want to get on for their future. And then we offer eight other programs that are considered career and technical education. Those include business management, health occupations, fire science, construction technology, law enforcement, culinary arts, automotive technology and emergency medical services. There are plenty of jobs available in these fields, and the jobs pay well. So they’re setting students up well for the future.
I’m working on opening an advanced technologies program next year. It wouldn’t be this year, because it’s not in the budget … Advanced technologies would include any IT stuff: networking, network security, programming, programmable logic controls, robotics, all of that stuff.
Q: If a student is taking classes here, can they split time between here and the high school, or do they have to choose a lane?
A: We’re treated sort of as an elective. So students will complete their academic classes in the high school. And we serve three high schools: Lake Region High School, Sacoppee Valley High School and Fryeburg Academy. So they complete their academic courses there – math, English, science and history – and then they come here for their vocational courses.
Q: Was there something in particular that drove you toward vocational education?
A: I would say it’s my work in group homes, with teenagers who didn’t know what they wanted to do with their future. So that’s what I love about career and tech ed, that it give students an opportunity to explore different pathways without having to pay college tuition in order to do that. Because once you graduate from high school, exploring pathways always costs money.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
David Morse is the new director of Lake Region Vocational Center, pictured here at the school’s automotive technology facility.