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We Heart Adult Ed


Open letters to the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees:

I have been a teacher all my life, including teaching French in the ‘80’s at what was then called Adult Education. Between my work and taking care of a disabled son, I have never had time to take classes and used to look at the catalog with regrets… But finally this year, with part-time employment, I have been able to take a class at Continuing Education, and am looking forward to increasing the number of classes I take when I’m fully retired in a couple of years; classes which enrich my life and help me stay connected with the community I live in. As I get to know the people who take the same class as I, I have come to realize that it’s not only the learning (of a skill, language, craft…) which makes Continuing Education classes so necessary and beneficial, but also the social function they serve. For many people, especially those who may be single, widowed and/or aging, it is a unique chance to interact with others in a safe, fun, and productive environment, and to find themselves interacting with people of many various backgrounds, ages, interests and skills.

Needless to say, I am one of many who are deeply upset by the proposed changes and increased fees. I agree that, budget being what it is, changes are needed. So far, the fees have been erring on the “too low” side, though that was wonderful as long as it was sustainable. However, the increase proposed is erring on the other side of reasonable! I’m afraid that the result will be to make attendance impossible for many people on limited budgets, and therefore will result in many classes being cancelled, which eventually will destroy a program our city has been justly proud of for so many years.

Increasing the fees so drastically seems to be a panic-driven, short-term fix where long-term solutions are needed, as well as the participation of the community to help preserve the program and make it sustainable. So far, there has been no transparency, collaboration, or search for viable alternatives. Please engage the community!

If, together with a reasonable increase in fees, which wouldn’t discourage people from attending, slightly shorter sessions were adopted (one week less), there were no summer session, and single-session classes charged more (as UCSB does), this would provide a short-term solution and allow committees set up by the Board (including teachers, students and administrators) to work on long-term solutions before next Winter term. The Continuing Education community should also be allowed to participate and give input through surveys and brainstorming sessions, so that the committee would get a sense of what is needed, wanted, or, on the other hand, possibly destructive.—Dominique Smith

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In the 12 years that I have lived in Santa Barbara, the Adult Education program has given me the opportunity to acquire valuable skills and knowledge. I am not alone in benefiting from this program. I am sure through your personal experiences as well as the many letters you have received, you have come to realize the important role that Adult Education plays in our community.

It is clear that this valuable asset is in financial jeopardy and difficult decisions must be made for the program to continue as it is. The possibilities of shortening sessions, eliminating the summer semester, and raising fees are painful, but may be necessary. I, along with my fellow students, understand that these steps probably need be taken to preserve the program. Having said that, however, may I urge you to spread the burden of cutting classes and increasing fees evenly over all classes, not primarily the liberal arts courses. All too often in our educational system, it seems that what is considered “practical” trumps the arts.

The breadth and scope of this highly successful Adult Education program should not be diminished by eliminating major aspects of it. We can all endure the pain when it is shared by all.

Thank you for the consideration of my views.—Julie Mahoney

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I have taken Adult Education Classes since I moved to Santa Barbara in 2001. They played a significant consideration in making Santa Barbara my retirement home. I have taken many Adult Education classes, including pottery, printmaking, wood sculpture and Spanish conversation. These play a significant part in my life. They brought me into the community and allowed me to meet others with similar interests. I operate on a fixed income, and if the cost of classes exceeded my ability to pay, the quality of my life would be significantly diminished.

I do recognize that the adult education program faces significant financial difficulties and must make some tough decisions. However, it seems that you are making these long-term decisions too rapidly, without sufficient study and without involvement of those enrolled in the program.

I recommend that short-term solutions (such as further reducing class size, increasing the minimum enrollment per are class, and charging higher fees for one time classes and events) be implemented so that a long-term solution can be found. This must be a transparent process with significant input from the community. If fee based classes are necessary, the fee structure must take into account actual costs such as instructor salaries, cost of materials and service and administrative costs. It must be a collaborative effort involving students and instructors rather than a hasty administrative decision that does not seem arbitrary.—Mary Thompson

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I, among many, am deeply concerned over the “new team” of SBCC administrators that has recently taken over our local community program, after original administrators retired last year.

The SBCC Adult Education program has operated problem-free for over 25 years, providing working and non-working adults with well attended and loved classes for personal growth, creative expression, and community health & support, at virtually no cost.

This wonderful program is now threatened by the new management’s limited abilities, poor communication, and lack of concern for our community and its members.

Years of faith and trust with teachers, students and administration has been destroyed by lack of care, response, support and understanding, which has now created a tense, frustrating and fearful educational environment.

In the past, students were charged for material fees only. Proposed Spring Quarter class fees increase ($75.00+ per specific class), plus new parking fees, and materials fees. As most senior students are on fixed incomes, these high class costs will not permit them and many others to attend, therefore, taking away vital community programs for growth and support.

Schott and Wake Centers both currently receive one million dollars each annually from the state of CA. Why then, will class costs be needed to pay 48% of the current Adult Education overhead costs?

In addition, why have new recruitment ads been placed to hire additional Adult Education Administrators with annual salaries listed at $100,000 - $117,000?

Who is holding the current management accountable? And if the SBCC Board does vote-in their new student class fee proposal – will the money actually go to support our local Adult Education Program, or is it lining management’s own personal pockets?

Our Santa Barbara Adult Education Program needs to be run by individuals with outstanding management abilities who possess integrity, and have exceptional communication and employee relation skills.—A. Russell

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As students of Continuing Education (Adult Education), we are appealing to you as a last resort. After attending the administrative meetings SBCC held for students and the community, we are extremely disappointed with SBCC’s lack of feedback and disregard for the teachers, students and community. The attendees spent considerable time developing suggestions to help SBCC cope with their financial crisis. One suggestion was for rate increases – never envisioning it would be used as a tool to go from under $10 to over $100 per class PLUS parking – a staggering increase which could have been achieved in measured regular intervals instead of one massive amount. Promises were made by SBCC to post on their web-site all the suggestions that were made for review. This NEVER happened. It has become clear that the President and her staff are appeasing the community while still charging ahead with their own agenda. We are asking each of you on the Board to review what is going on and consider a reasonable solution.

We are extremely disappointed in what has taken place – the take-over of the Wake Center as a Trade School for undocumented immigrants. It is quite apparent that the Adult Ed classes are being systematically eliminated in favor of the immigrant classes that are being funded by the State. When this facility was donated by Selmer O. Wake, it was intended for Adult Education and ESL training. In particular the arts and creative fields have been singled out for these huge increases in hopes of eliminating classes primarily used and important to the senior population and making it impossible for seniors on a fixed income to participate.

SBCC used to be well respected and open within our community making students proud of being part of the SBCC family. We now feel that we are being treated as ‘uneducated’ and not worthy to be a part of the decision making process, while everything is done in a deceptive obscure way. Obviously they have an agenda that does not include us, the voting taxpayers.

We cannot express how DISAPPOINTED we are in the Board’s choice of hiring and condoning these deceitful actions.

We do plan on attending your next meeting at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, February 25 in Room 211 of the Administration Bldg. at SBCC’s main campus.—Patti McCormack and Betty White, students at the Wake Center for Adult Education

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I am writing to show my concern about the proposed fee hike for adult education classes. I’ve been taking evening art classes since the 1980s. The classes are important to me for a place to do work, a chance to receive quality instructions, learn new techniques and receive critiques of my work. I find that when I don’t take a class, I rarely can be as motivated to do the same work at home. Adult ed instructors have given me the confidence to keep producing and framing watercolors and seek entry into art associations. My life would be immeasurably poorer without the adult ed classes.

My main concern is the proposed size of the new fees. I’ve been paying typically less than $10 a semester for watercolor classes. I always felt I could pay more but not as much as the approx. $150 a semester I’ve heard might be charged. Also, I’ve often taken the same class over and over and have been happy to do so because I always learn something new from your quality instructors but with the fee hike, I doubt I’d take any given class more than once.

Please consider more equitable fee hikes, short-term solutions such as canceling the summer session and work with the community to develop long-term solutions to keep the program viable and affordable.—Rosie Dyste

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Hello, I cannot believe that the people in adult education cannot tell a frontal assault when they see one. Obviously it is the intention to decimate adult education which has been a model for the U.S. I think it is planned and one of the reasons is that these people who take part are intelligent and cohesive, and could fight.

Santa Barbara is on the map for huge ships that spew pollution, like they do in Juneau, Alaska. It’s like a sort of rain made of bits of paper, very bad to breathe. A cohesive group of people who could stop things like this from happening is a force to be reckoned with.—Sharon Fitzpatrick



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