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Groups Plan To Polish Image

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Atlanta--Leaders of the American Vocational Education Association and a newly restructured federal panel on vocational education each plan to give top priority next year to improving the public image of the nation's vocational-education programs.

Instead of responding to reports critical of the role of vocational education, the ava intends to publicize successful vocational programs throughout the country, according to Jim Guilinger, the group's president-elect and head of the vocational-agriculture department at Sycamore (Ill.) High School.

"We're going to be proactive rather than reactive," he said.

In addition, the National Council on Vocational Education--a federal advisory panel restructured under the Carl Perkins Vocational-Education Act of 1984--voted at its first meeting this fall to make a public-relations effort the council's primary objective.

"If you want to move mountains, the thing to do is to win public support for your cause," said Raymond Shamie, a council member who is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Metal Bellows Corporation in Sharon, Mass. Of the 17 council members, nine are from the private sector.

"It wouldn't be difficult to visualize departments of education from the 50 states taking a healthier attitude toward vocational education," he said, "if they recognized that the voters, the public, and the parents all wanted to see the vocational-education programs on a par with academic programs."

The council's "most important role," Mr. Shamie said, will be to "make the public aware of the value of vocational education and its contribution to society."

Not Part of 'In' Group

Other participants at the ava's national meeting here last week agreed that there is an "image problem."

"The public's view of industrial arts is that it's a crafts course,'' said Willard R. Daggett, director of occupational-education programs for the New York State Department of Education. "They teach people to make crafts."

"We're not part of the 'in' group in education," acknowledged Mary Frances Rosen, director of the career and vocational-education department for the Sacramento (Calif.) City Unified School District and president of the National Association of Large-City Directors of Vocational Education.

Paul O. Lentz, director of vocational education for the Cabarrus County, N.C., schools and the ava's vice president for administration, blamed vocational-education's poor image in part on school administrators.

"They don't understand all the aspects of vocational training and they tend not to get involved with it," he said, noting that many administrators have academic rather than vocational-education backgrounds. As a result, he said, students leaning toward vocational education are often encouraged by their parents not to enroll in "'second-level' courses."--sh

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