Published Date Written by Adam DrapchoLACONIA — Scott Davis, like his wife Sarah, is a Vermont kid. He grew up in Fairhaven, graduated from high school in Barre and went to college at the University of Vermont. He had started his educational career there, too, when something about a help wanted ad in the Sunday newspaper attracted his attention. The advertisement was soliciting applications for the position of director of the Huot Regional Technical Education Center here.
Davis recently announced his plans to retire at the end of the current school year. He's served as director of the Huot Center for 20 years. The facility offers technical education programs for students in the Laconia, Gilford, Inter-Lakes, Belmont, Franklin and Winnisquam Regional school districts.
"When we moved to the area, we didn't know anything about the area except they had Bike Week," recalled Sarah.
While she and Scott prefer cycles of the non-motorized variety, they found that there was plenty in Laconia for them to like. They chose to live in the city, raise their children in Laconia and, although they still consider themselves Vermonters, Laconia is where they plan to continue living.
Scott took a round-about route to education. He earned his first degree, at UVM, in animal science. Soon, though, he found himself working in schools. He began his educational career 36 years ago, teaching at St. Johnsbury Academy, then in the vocational education program of the Vermont Department of Corrections, and then for a district in Springfield, Vt. While he wasn't embarking on a full-on job search when he came across the ad for the Huot Center position, he said things had been changing in his district and he was willing to consider a change for himself.
"We just came out here on kind of a whim," explained Sarah.
"We really loved the area, geographically," said Scott. As outdoor enthusiasts, they liked the recreational opportunities in the Lakes Region. They were also impressed by the warm reception they were given by their new co-workers and neighbors. "I loved the feel of the community. It just seemed like a good fit."
As much as Laconia was a good fit for the Davis family, Scott found himself at home in technical education. "I love the application of classroom learning. I love seeing kids who may have struggled in school find their niche." In technical education, he said, "People find their passions. We're active and engaged, people like that."
Sarah also found a professional home in the Lakes Region. Like Scott, she started her career in Vermont, as a kindergarten teacher. She served as a school librarian for two years at Elm Street School, and for the past 18 years she's worked as a librarian and reading specialist in Ashland.
The Davises also raised their two adopted sons, Tyler and Ben, in Laconia, both of whom took advantage of offerings at the Huot Center.
Ben studied pre-engineering, and although he doesn't currently employ that training — he works as an X-ray technician at Lakes Region General Hospital — he said teacher Ken Martin "was a great mentor to me." In retrospect, he wishes he had taken classes in the health science program, which provides enough training to students that they're ready to begin a health care career the day after graduation. "I'm just blown away by how awesome this kind of thing is," he said.
Tyler studied multi-media while in high school, something he enjoyed as a creative break from his academic courses. As a freelance photographer, he employs his Huot Center education by shooting extreme sports events put on by Red Bull. His full-time job is as English teacher at Gilford High School, where he sees the effect that technical center education has on students. "The kids that I have that do tech, do better in my class.... I push the kids to go there all the time."
Scott has seen much change in the two decades he's spent at the Huot Center. The student interest in manufacturing dropped, only to resurge again. There's also a renewed attraction to building trades. Health care is more popular than ever, and the new law enforcement program has proven popular.
Attitudes toward technical education have also changed, he said. "It's become more mainstream. The perception was, it was for kids that weren't going to college," he said. Now, Huot classes are considered a normal part of a typical student's day, whether college — or workplace — bound. The recently added biotechnology program exemplifies this shift.
Scott is leaving his post on the eve of one of the biggest changes in the Huot's history. The technical center, along with much of the high school campus, is in the midst of a major renovation and addition, a project that Davis is proud to have helped. "That was a lot of work by a lot of people," he said, adding that he's confident that the technical center is in a good place for a change of leadership as well.
In his retirement, Scott looks forward to more time to enjoy his outdoor pursuits, skiing, fishing and bicycling. He and Sarah also enjoy traveling, such as a recent tour of northern Europe. Wherever they travel, he said, they know where home is.
"I'm in this community, a breathe in this community, I pay taxes in this community. I loved being part of the system that my kids were in," he said.
Added Sarah, "Scott and I will always see ourselves as Vermonters, but we are committed to this community."
CAPTION for DAVIS FAMILY in AA:
Scott Davis, director of the Huot Technical Center, will retire at the end of his 20th year in the district. He is shown here at right; to his right is his wife Sarah, their son Tyler and daughter-in-law Ashley, and son Ben. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)