Friday, October 5, 2007
Adult and community ed fees should cover costs $14,000 profit last year
Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education (ACE) is important, but it can pay its own way, said the special task force reporting to the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) on September 25. The task force also recommended certain changes to the relationship of the Regional School District and ACE, in part to help the program remain financially strong.
Why a task force?
In 2004, the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) decided to eliminate the financial subsidy to Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education due to severe budget constraints. That subsidy ranged from $22,000 to $60,000 between 1981 and 2004. In the spring, the RSC charged a temporary task force to review the current program and make recommendations concerning the future of the ACE program.
The task force met nine times over the summer and reviewed programs in other towns, among which were: Acton-Boxboro, Bedford, Brookline, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton and Westford. On September 25 the task force presented their findings to the RSC and heard public comments, which will be considered before their final report is made to the RSC.
Members of the task force include RSC member Michael Fitzgerald, Concord School Committee member Becky Shannon, Concord Selectman Peggy Briggs, Carlisle Selectman Tim Hult, Concord Finance Committee member Susan Bates, Carlisle Finance Committee member Thornton Ash and ACE Advisory Committee member Jim Saltonstall.
ACE provides courses to residents in Concord, Carlisle and other communities. Participants who do not live in Concord or Carlisle pay an additional $3 per course. ACE sponsors events like the Global Warming Symposium and supports CCTV. For the majority of its adult classes, ACE uses classrooms at Concord-Carlisle High School after usual school hours. Courses can be one night or run over several weeks or months and the courses themselves are very diverse. They include music lessons, classes in CPR, foreign languages, finance, computers, driver's education, sewing, history, photography, sports, dance and much more.
Total enrollment in ACE offerings was 4,167 last year, with students from Concord and Carlisle making up 45%, adults from Concord and Carlisle making up 35% and adults from other communities making up 20% of the total enrollment. Roughly 1,000 additional individuals participated in community events sponsored by ACE.
Task force values ACE
The task force presentation was given by Hult, who reaffirmed the value of the adult and community education program. He said that both towns benefit from the course offerings, though Carlisle adults participate in proportionately lower numbers than Concord, and Concord residents benefit more from ACE-sponsored community events than does Carlisle.
Supported by fees
The task force concluded that ACE can and should be financially self-sufficient, with fees sufficient to allow the program to support itself. In recent years, ACE has moved towards self-funding by increasing fees, fundraising and cutting staff. This past year it saw a $14,000 surplus. The revolving fund has risen to roughly $100,000, and has enough funds to sustain the program. Continuing education programs reviewed from other towns were all self-funding.
However, the task force said that the RSC, in eliminating funding in 2005, did not put in place the proper oversight necessary to assist in making the transition to ACE self-sufficiency effective.
The task force found a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities of the RSC, the school administration, the ACE Advisory Committee, the ACE director and the two towns. It was recommended that the RSC monitor and ensure financial stability for the program.
The ACE program has been technically under the supervision of the Regional School District superintendent, however, Shannon later explained, "There has been a history of independence in the program."
The following administrative structure was proposed: The RSC is to maintain primary responsibility for sustaining the ACE program over the long-term.
The role of the advisory committee is to support the ACE director, to review the current enrollment and catalog, identify yearly initiatives, help with marketing, review financials and report regularly to the RSC. The RSC will make policies to guide the advisory committee and appoint members, including one from the RSC.
The ACE director will manage the overall program of courses and community events; hire, supervise and evaluate ACE teachers and staff; prepare and administer the budget; collaborate with local community agencies; and coordinate use of facilities and present financial and program data to the RSC and school superintendent's office. The director will report to the assistant school superintendent.
The roles of the school administration are also clarified. The superintendent will receive an annual overview of the program, while the assistant superintendent will prepare a job description and hire the ACE director, schedule monthly program reviews, give general budget oversight and evaluate the performance of the director.
The regional school district director of finance will review the ACE budget and enrollment, develop an expense forecasting process capability for ACE management and give status of the revolving fund. He is to advise and support the assistant superintendent and director as needed.
Public supports greater ACE funding
Many Concord citizens attended the meeting and several spoke in favor of reinstating RSC budget support for adult and community education. Tim Rose of Concord wanted the ACE director's salary to be paid by the regional school district. Phebe Ham of Concord spoke in favor of the RSC reinstating the level of funding ACE enjoyed before 2004. T. Sisson of Concord felt the ACE director needed to be independent of the RSC. Louise Halderman of Concord, who has served on the RSC and the advisory committee in the past, said any problems are from the lack of communication. She thought a school administrator should attend ACE advisory committee meetings.
RSC member Peter Fischelis ended the public hearing on ACE by saying, "It's a great program," and added, "We need to realize we're all on the same team."
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