M. Richard Maxfield, District 6 representative on the State Board of Education for eight years, has resigned to pursue his interest in promoting vocational/technical education.
Maxfield has been appointed liaison between the State Office of Education and five applied technology centers scattered throughout the state. The centers provide technological training to high school students and adults and are responsive to state employment needs.Gov. Norm Bangerter said he will appoint a successor to Maxfield this month. The appointment could be especially significant if reapportionment in the school board districts occurs as part of statewide reapportionment and if the Legislature accepts a committee proposal to change the way state board members are selected.
The State Office appointment formalizes functions Maxfield was fulfilling as a member of the board, said Associate State Superintendent Steve Mecham.
"He was working as liaison to the ATCs. We are right at the turning point, ready to gear up the ATC programs, so we saw this as a great opportunity. We are pleased that we had someone with the expertise and background to step in and take care of the transition."
Maxfield has represented the Holladay-Cottonwood areas of Salt Lake County on the board for eight years. His special interests have been in fundamental restructuring of education with emphasis on occupational preparation and the infusion of technology into schools.
Bangerter said Maxfield has "been an excellent member of the Utah State Board of Education. During his eight years of service, he worked hard to make public education even better in Utah. His contributions, especially in the area of at-risk youth and vocational education,, will be felt long after his departure." Maxfield's transition to the vocational/technical field will allow him to continue to exert an influence on Utah education, Bangerter said.
Maxfield said he also believes this is an appropriate time for his transition.
"Now we have a good game plan in place and have resolved (governance) problems with the regents. We have the concept of an occupational plan for every student in place and the applied technology centers are working together and coordinating their efforts. Business linkages have been created and Custom Fit is well established. All of the politics and infrastructure are in place, now we can provide fast-track training programs for high school students and adults."
Sixty percent of Utah's new jobs are in applied technology fields, he said. With 10 percent of all jobs being phased out each year, there is "tremendous need for applied technology training for existing workers. This is the training ground of the future."
As students and their parents develop individual occupational plans, the perceptions about vocational education as a second choice to a baccalaureate degree will change, Maxfield predicted. The old trite notion that vocational training is only for those who can't master higher education is falling as technology-based jobs become more challenging.
"Today's welder needs a background in trigonometry," he said, illustrating the increasing skill workers need.
With Maxfield's resignation, three new board members will start the year. Two incumbents chose not to run in last fall's elections and were replaced in districts 5 and 9.
Maxfield's service spanned an era of foment in education, with a relatively high turn-over in state superintendents and a push for educational reform in the state. At times, his outspoken support of educational areas in which he had particular interest, along with proposals that were viewed as radical by other board members, created heat on the board.
He sees his move to the ATC position as a way to continue pushing his particular educational emphases.