SWACC rededicated to honor Ralph Scott
"I'm pleased and humbled by this extremely high honor. Thank you," said Dr. Ralph Scott on Thursday at the dedication of the Scott Regional Technology Center.
Dedication ceremonies were held prior to the beginning of the new school year at what had been the Southwest Area Career Center at Monett (SWACC). Around 70 people turned out for the ceremony.
Almost all of the directors who have served at what began as the Monett Area Vocational Technical Center in 1966 were on hand. Monett R-1 Superintendent Brad Hanson, who served a year as director himself, introduced Jim Orr, Ken Rhuems, Ted Dorton, Tyler Laney and current director Russ Moreland.
According to Scott, after he was named the new Monett school superintendent in 1965, his predecessor, E.E. Camp, said the state had decided to fund regional vocational technical schools. Camp asked if Scott would be interested in pursuing such a program for Monett. Scott said absolutely.
Camp and Scott prepared the application together. Three centers were approved the first year, including the one in Monett. Scott said there was no way to identify the order of the decision, so in his view, Monett had the first vocational technical school in the state.
Orr recounted how government money was introduced to vocational education by the Smith Hughes Act of 1917. In the 1930s, the program expanded into home economics. The Vocational Education Act was revised in 1960 and 1966 in an effort to generate the craftsmen needed to propel the space race with Russia.
While one rural town could not provide jobs for 20 graduates in a field like auto mechanics a year, Orr said a consortium of schools could serve a broader geographic area and justify the investment. The federal government reimbursed local school districts for 60 percent of the building and equipment costs for a vocational technical center and half the teachers' salaries.
In the first year, the Monett Vocational-Technical School offered electronics and drafting, held at the old junior high school. Gene Mulvaney taught the auto mechanics class at his garage. Earl Hagebush, who taught the drafting class, served as the first director.
In the next few years, additional programs were added. Additions such as building trades, added in 1968, became popular enough to warrant two teachers within a decade.
Dorton, who served as director for 13 years until 2009, described the efforts to secure funding to get the current building constructed in 2007. The challenge for career and technical education, he said, is "to do a good job and tell everyone about it."
Moreland said last year the marketing committee had proposed changing the name of the school in part to avoid confusion with the Missouri Career Center, the job training office in Monett. The proposal was warmly received by the Monett R-1 Board of Education.
Marty Scabarozi, president of the R-1 Board, said board members for years had discussed finding an appropriate way to honor Scott. No naming opportunity had seemed quite right. Renaming the career center for Scott, however, was "one of the easiest decisions we've made."
Moreland recalled Scott agreed to the honor only after insisting that the word "regional" be included in the school's name. The emphasis on the broad support backing the school was the key to why the program remained successful, Moreland added.
The honor to Scott represented more than a momentary contribution to career and technical education. Former Monett school superintendent Dr. Charles Cudney recalled that in 1981, while he was studying administration, he was assigned to interview a superintendent. His boss at the Cassville District directed him to see Scott, who was called "the dean of superintendents in southwest Missouri."
The title was earned from Scott's 22 years as superintendent, in a career where the average lifespan in the job is two, and 37 years in education. Cudney and others praised Scott's professionalism and his directness. Scott's willingness to serve in many capacities in the community, from the Monett Community Foundation, the city council's advisory board and leadership roles at his church had made the honor even more appropriate.
After receiving a standing ovation, Scott sought to extend credit for the career center to others.
"The first electronics class was TV repair," Scott said. "From a low-tech program, the board never waivered from its support. I made a commitment, and the school districts sending students made a commitment to make vo-tech an integral part of their learning. Throw your arms around the sending schools for their support. It's not easy to bus your children to another district.
"I knew we were not giving all the kids an equal shot. We are with this. I think the building and the program exemplifies that we offer opportunity to young people to be prepared," Scott continued.
"It's not the politicians that makes this work. It's those of you out here who made the commitment," Scott said. "You need to stand up and pat yourselves on the back. In another 50 years, think of what will happen."
Scabarozi presented Scott with a plaque which read, "The Monett R-1 School District Board of Education rededicates our career and vocational center as the Scott Regional Technology Center, Aug. 9, 2012, in honor of the long-lasting contributions made by Dr. Ralph Scott to the Monett R-1 School District and the Monett community and for his visionary leadership that has impacted the lives of thousands of students by making career and vocational education a reality in our region."
The program concluded with a ceremony changing the patches on the uniforms of the Junior ROTC cadets to new ones using the "SRTC" initials. Lieutenant Colonel Maella Blalock said the JROTC's flag bearing the new name has been ordered from the United States Army Department of Heraldry.