Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray paid a visit to Essex Agricultural and Technical High School on Saturday during the school's open house for prospective students and their families.
"A quality product has always come out of the Aggie here," he told parents on Saturday, offering brief remarks during an overview of the school. "This is one of the great jewels of the Massachusetts educational system."
Murray, who said he is a strong supporter of vocational schools, has tried to visit all 60 schools during his time in office – he oversees vocational programs in Massachusetts.
"The students are motivated" and the staff equally so, he added, characterizing students as actively engaged in hands-on learning. He also noted that Aggie students often score higher on the MCAS than many of their peers in traditional public schools and average high attendance rates – drop out rates are also low.
Roger Bourgeois, the school superintendent, noted that Murray was at the helm as mayor of Worcester when Worcester Technical High School was built in the 1990s and that school has now become a model for other voke schools in the commonwealth to emulate.
Bourgeois said Murray has continued to show his commitment to vocational education through the years, and most recently with his full support of the new mega-voke school planned to open in 2013 at the Essex Aggie campus. School officials hope to break ground in the spring.
"We think the investment is well worth it," Murray said, referring to the $98.6 million the commonwealth is contributing to the $133 million development. He added that it's important to improve the school facilities to both accommodate even more students while offering enhanced programs.
The new school will be a merger of Essex Aggie, North Shore Technical High School and vocational programs at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School. The next step in the process, now that a new regional school committee has formed and established a building committee for the project, is to select an architect. According to Bourgeois, that decision will happen today during a meeting of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Murray told his audience he has talked to local organizations and business owners who speak highly of the trained graduates coming out of the Aggie.
After speaking to parents, Bourgeois then led Murray on a tour of the open house, during which they met up with state Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers, who was on his own tour.