When Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School opened its doors in Wayne over 40 years ago, it was not so much a beginning, as a grand step towards the realization of a dream that began more than 50 years earlier.
In 1917, a small band of "Silk City" businessmen agreed that Paterson should have a school to train young men to enter the textile industry and Paterson Vocational School was born in an abandoned factory loft. Not quite a high school, Paterson Vocational School took boys who were at least 14 years of age or in the sixth grade, and trained them for two years or until they were ready to assume a job in a factory or trade, whichever came first. From 1917 to the early Forties, Paterson Vocational School continued to operate as a two-year school, gradually expanding its curriculum to include a wider variety of trades. During World War II, the school remained open around the clock providing men and women with the training to become machinists and draftsmen to design and construct the engines used in bombers, fighters and transport aircraft flown in the Pacific and European theaters. For its service, the school was honored by the War Department.
Aware of the part technology would play in the booming postwar economy, Paterson Vocational School applied for and received approval from the New Jersey Department of Education to become a full-fledged high school in 1946. Academic subjects were added, as were new trades like Refrigeration, Industrial Electric and Electronics. The school was renamed Paterson Technical and Vocational High School and quickly gained the name Paterson Tech. Agriculture was offered to shared-time students attending Central High School (now Kennedy High School), with Paterson Tech renting a farm close to PCTI's present Wayne site where students learned to raise farm animals and grow crops.
By the Sixties, the importance of vocational and technical education was becoming obvious, and in 1964, Paterson Mayor, Frank Graves turned over Paterson Tech to The Board of Passaic County Freeholders, thereby providing all youngsters in Passaic County access to Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School. With students flooding in from all over the county, Passaic County Tech, now reaching a student population of 500 young men and one girl, was bursting at the seams. The school's two buildings - one dating from the Civil War located at the corner of Summer and Ellison, the other a refurbished factory on Market Street - could not meet the demands. By 1965 plans were well underway to build a new school that would accommodate students for generations to come.
Armed with a Federal Grant of $3,925,000 - the largest ever awarded to that date - and research from a Citizens' Study Committee, the county chose a 59 acre tract of land which it owned in Wayne, previously the site of Camp Hope.
Ground breaking ceremonies were held in November 1966 and construction began 15 months later. On September 8, 1970, Passaic County Technical and Vocational High School - at the time, the largest technical/vocational high school in the state and third largest in the nation - opened its doors to close to 1500 young men and women. In the 40 plus years since, PCTI has been renamed Passaic County Technical Institute reflecting our commitment to the future. During that time, PCTI has added 3 new wings, an additional special needs building, an additional media center, new athletic center, new athletic fields, a variety of academic courses, AP courses and specialized programs, and has kept abreast of rapid technological advances and economic trends by constantly updating vocational, occupational and technical course offerings.
What has taken place over the last 40 plus years is merely an opening chapter. As technical/vocational education continues in the 21st century there are always new challenges to meet and new horizons to explore. As we, at PCTI respond to the demands of industry and the global marketplace, in much the same way as that handful of Paterson trailblazers did over 95 years ago, we will continue to make history!