Bruce the Blog

BOCES… What’s in a Name?

Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation awarded its annual scholarships for excellence in digital film, video and audio production to high school seniors on May 17. Credits: Elizabeth Marques

Do you ever wonder what BOCES stands for? We associate the name with a center of learning that supplements the general curriculum of local high schools by teaching students specialized trades. Beyond that, does everyone in the non-BOCES population, those who have no direct connection to the programs, fully appreciate the priceless value it brings to our communities’ young adults and their families?

Consider just one of the many programs at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES: An impressively broad scope of disciplines is offered by its Tech Center, located in Yorktown Heights. Students can develop monetizable skills in everything from law enforcement to masonry, from veterinary science to baking and pastry arts, from auto body to computer graphics.

There is much public discourse focused on the practical value of a college education—particularly when that value is measured against the gobsmacking cost of a private college (holding a hugely successful yard sale might not even pay for a week’s worth of tuition). Add to that the ever-present anxiety—regardless of lower unemployment statistics—about job creation for humans in a head-spinning world of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence.

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It’s fair to say the typical BOCES Tech Center graduate heads into higher education—or directly into the workforce if that’s their preference—with the distinct advantage of possessing a demonstrated proficiency in a chosen profession.

Each year at this time, the local charity we run in memory of our son, the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation, gives several scholarship awards. Among recipients are students in the BOCES Tech Center’s course for digital film, video and audio production, whose instructor is Elizabeth Marques.

Along with a host of other sponsored endowments, ours was presented last week at the Tech Center’s Career and Technical Education Awards Ceremony, which is combined with the induction ceremony for students entering the National Technical Honor Society.

The Honor Society lists eight reasons for its existence. Here are three worth sharing to encourage more young people to consider a vocational or technical career:

  • Promote honesty, service, leadership, and skill development among America’s future workforce.
  • Build a more positive image for vocational and technical students, programs and schools in the local community.
  • Help schools maintain strong working partnerships with local businesses.

By the way, BOCES stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. As a marketing person, as much as I admire everything else about BOCES, I am not a fan of that nebulous name.

It understandably made sense originally to describe the concept and structure of sharing services among multiple school districts, which now number 18 in the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, whose origins date 70 years, to Sept. 9, 1948.

BOCES students succeed as well as they do for a reason. Our BOCES is filled with talented, hard-working administrators, faculty and support staff who have a lot to be proud of and contribute a great deal to our quality of life.

There is one thing I’d like to see reconsidered, though: the name. The nomenclature of “BOCES” equates to a holding, or parent, company in the corporate world. (For example, subscribers to Optimum don’t say they have Altice, which owns and operates Optimum.)

That’s how I think of BOCES: as an owner/operator rather than as an easily relatable brand that is user-friendly. Its tagline, “Service and Innovation Through Partnership,” also is inward-looking. Instead of speaking outwardly to the public, ideally with a call-to-action that encourages enrollment, the tagline passively describes the mission of the operating entity.

I hope the powers that be give some thought to re-branding BOCES in more relatable language that better communicates the spirit and substance of what this invaluable Board of Cooperative Educational Services offers America’s future workforce.

Until then, long live BOCES and all that it does.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at or 914-275-6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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