Editorial: Getting behind Community Ed

Encouraging news can be drawn from the May 28 school budget committee meeting regarding the fate of the Community Education program. (Story, page A1.)

While officially the county-wide program seems on tenuous terms, it has several things going for it looking ahead to 2013-14:

First, the committed and impassioned leadership of director John Rust, who in three years at the helm has redefined of Community Ed and accommodated the major expansion of its role by taking on middle school sports programs.

Second, the increased awareness of the program, its needs and its steady progress, as a result of the budget committee process. The program is not at solvency yet, and it may take awhile, but with continued refinements, it can arrive there.

Third, the indications, albeit unofficial, that needed fiscal support down the road will be afforded Community Ed, even if the $80,000 general fund revenue from the District is removed from the Community Ed budget next year.

A “budget note” stating support of the program is one method put forth by Board Member (and State Representative) Mark Johnson to ensure that Community Ed gets the fiscal support it needs down the road. This is a step the district should make to go along with improvements Rust plans to make.

These include expanding community partnerships and adding an advisory board. He also announced budget structure changes such as limiting some employees’ hours so that Community Ed does not have to pay into Public Employee Retirement System, and forgoing health insurance for himself in 2013-14.

Rust said Community Ed will also reduce by 5 percent the payments to instructors, in most cases. Rust said he already has buy-in for that step, and it’s a critical one. Paired with these measures, appropriately, will be some increases in class costs, and added reliance on parent fundraisers for middle school sports.

That is how it should be: that users as well as the School District itself share the load.

“I hope you recognize the depth of passion this community has for Community Ed. It’s really important,” Pat Evenson-Brady told the budget committee on May 28.

“I believe this is a key ingredient to having an outstanding K-21 school program in Hood River,” said Evenson-Brady, formerly the district superintendent. “All the pieces fit together; there is no other single agency that can work as effectively, especially with the buildings and resources of this community, to provide this program.

“It works. It costs money. Nothing is free in school districts,” she said. “I would encourage the budget committee not leave Community Ed in the lurch without a plan to continue to do all the things that are really important for this community.”

Run, kids, run

Please Wait for Dash and Chase

A short note on other school-related coverage: our May 29 edition promised coverage of the Dragon Dash and Wildcat Chase events at May Street and Westside Elementary schools. These are great programs involving kids and adults.

We caught our breath and realized we will have more room for more photos in the Kaleidoscope feature page; look for it on page B1 in the June 5 edition. Thanks for your patience.

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