These are difficult times for anyone on a budget. It is time to appreciate the people and things we hold close to our hearts. For me and many others, Santa Barbara’s Adult Education program is one of those.
The wall of the Schott Center, just outside the office of the new dean, shows the clear intention of past supporters. Contributors to the funding of the Schott Center placed commemorative tiles here to “honor and remember” the ongoing experience of music, history, cooking, sculpting, ceramics, creating, inspiring, calligraphy, watercolor, photography, painting, poetry, art, movies, and more. This is the clear testimony from grateful students and classmates.
Recently, the Santa Barbara Community College Board of Trustees hired two new administrators. The new Continuing Education vice president and new dean arrived in Santa Barbara fewer than six months and two months ago, respectively. And the first mark they made in their new town was to axe approximately 100 classes out of Adult Ed.
The second thing they did was issue a call to hire more administrators: The two additional positions are advertised with salaries of $101,124 each, plus full “health and welfare benefits” (see advertisement at jobs.sbcc.edu). The programs advertised as the new Adult Ed focus are “Adult High School, Adult Basic Education (e.g. ESL), GED Instruction, Inmate Education, Vocational Technical programs, and Medical Career Development.”
If you voted in support of SBCC’s recent multimillion-dollar bond item, is this what you expected for Adult Ed? By a generous majority, Santa Barbara recently voted to fund improvements to SBCC. I am often conservative when it comes to taking on civic debt, but I voted in favor of SBCC’s initiative. Throughout the years, the college has earned my trust and support as both a parent and a “lifelong learner.”
The Schott Center, I know, is the heart and soul of Adult Ed, and the donor wall that celebrates art and music is the concrete promise of Adult Ed to Santa Barbara. Today, besides the 100 courses that have already been cut, 100 more are on the chopping block.
What can be done?
• Recall the new vice president and new dean of SBCC Adult Ed.
• Freeze hiring of new positions: SBCC should not be spending more than $200,000 annually to fatten the administration when it is slashing some 200 classes and thousands of students.
• Convene a stakeholders’ committee to review class offerings in light of budget shortfalls.
• Put the high school diploma (GED) program into the high schools, especially La Cuesta, where existing programs and teaching talent already are in place.
• Urge the administration to explore other funding options to retain classes. Programs that are cut today are hard to reinstate later. This is most apparent when classes requiring a specific room set-up are cut. The Wake Center, which, has a well-developed facility with rooms specifically equipped for classes ranging from culinary skills to craft classes for the elderly. This equipment should be maintained, not mothballed.
What else can you do?
Hold on to your pocketbook. When you get the Annual Giving appeal from SBCC, send in a letter of no confidence regarding the new vice president and new dean for SBCC Adult Ed. Give your money to other worthy Santa Barbara nonprofits (they need it more than ever in these difficult times).
Please attend a public meeting in the Schott Center Auditorium on Tuesday, October 27, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. If you cannot come, send a letter. Just a handwritten note, sent along with a friend who is able to attend, will let the administration know your thoughts.
Our time is short in this world. As one writing teacher said, “Creative writing is one of the last remaining places where your life really matters.” This is true of every person, in every room of the Schott Center, every day.
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Charmaine Jacobs is a civic activist and lifelong learner.