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Richmond County evening school program discontinued because of budget issues

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 2:54 PM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 2:02 AM
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Adults who want to return to school for their high school diplomas have lost an option in Augusta.

Stephanie Morris, 26, is a student at the Tubman Education Center evening school. The program is ending because of funding.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Stephanie Morris, 26, is a student at the Tubman Education Center evening school. The program is ending because of funding.

Tracey McManus
Twitter: @aug_mcmanus
E-mail | 706-823-3424

The Richmond County School System has discontinued its free adult evening school program for the first time in at least 18 years because of budget issues.

The evening school was funded by a Crossroads Alternative School Program grant from 1994 to 2000, and when that ran out the school system fronted the money. In fiscal year 2012, that amounted to $292,000, according to Gene Spires, the school system’s controller.

When the state cut the district’s budget by $23 million for the 2011-12 school year, the district tried charging $200 per course to keep the program alive.

The school officials found that students could not afford to pay tuition, so this year they discontinued the program until the district can find an alternative funding source, said Carol Rountree, the director of student services.

“It was really operating in the red,” Rountree said. “We did that as long as we could, but when the budget tightened up we had to look at those programs that were heavily funded by the system and realize we can’t offer them right now.”

Educators at the Tubman Education Center, where the evening school was housed, are still working with about 10 students who were in the program last year and have fewer than three credits to finish.

A part-time teacher used to supervise the evening school, but the 10 students this year are allowed to show up at their leisure and finish their courses alone in a computer lab.

Academic Supervisor Natalie Robinson said it has been difficult to turn new students away from the evening school after she has seen how the program has helped so many people finish their education later in life.

“It was another avenue that people who dropped out of school could use to achieve their dreams,” Robinson said. “It’s very disappointing.”

About 64 students attended the evening school in the 2009-10 school year. When officials began charging tuition in 2011-12, the enrollment dropped to 35.

Rountree said she would like to find a grant or even a private funding source to help restart the program by October. To properly run the evening school the district has to pay for utilities, two part-time teachers, a counselor and a school safety officer.

Robinson said adults hoping to finish their high school education can turn to the GED program at Augusta Technical College.

One of the lost benefits of the evening school, however, is that students earned an actual high school diploma rather than a GED certificate, which is often valued more highly in the professional world, Robinson said.

“When you go in the working world or the military or college, (employers) will sometimes only accept a GED with other things in place, like college credit,” Robinson said, adding that the evening school was the only resource in the area that offered a high school diploma program.

Stephanie Bowie, the executive director for the office of adult education at Augusta Technical College, said the GED program still gives students a boost toward college or better jobs.

The college offers free GED classes at more than eight places across Richmond County, and students can take remediation courses and GED preparation courses through the program.

Students enrolled in the program are also offered free city transportation, she said.

“One of the big misconceptions with GEDs is people pretty much think you can drop out of school, run in and get a GED,” Bowie said. “It’s not that way. It’s not like a little paper mill … but we try to help and make it easy.”

Stephanie Morris, one of the 10 remaining evening school students, said she hopes the district can continue to offer adults the same diploma program.

Morris, 26, left Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School during her senior year when working her full-time job to pay bills seemed more important.

She had an apartment and a baby to take care of, and she had to make a decision.

“It was either grow up fast and learn how to pay bills or … actually it wasn’t really a choice,” Morris said.

Last year, however, after getting married and dreaming of bigger things, Morris entered the evening school to get her diploma and move on to college.

With one course left, she said she is excited for what’s ahead and hopeful others can have the same chance.

“I pray this program stays open,” she said. “Everybody’s situation is different, nobody is perfect and everybody deserves a new start.”

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Concerned Tax Payer
Concerned Tax Payer 09/20/12 - 04:15 pm
Glad to see that Richmond

Glad to see that Richmond County School System is looking at ways to reduce the budget. Also great to learn that this is offered free at Augusta Tech.

Now, maybe Richmond County School System will look at stopping the Pre-K program. Paying salaries and benefits to staff these programs in the schools would reduce the budget.

I think it is high time that Daycare centers take this program over and receive the funding.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/20/12 - 08:14 pm
Cross and Garlic

Please drive a wooden stake into the heart of this program so it will never come back. Please, oh please, oh please.

fedex227 09/20/12 - 09:03 pm
Who the heck are these people ...

that are trying to become more educated, earn more than just a GED, make a better life for themselves and their family? Do they really think they can become productive members of society? This is a total waste of taxpayer money and must stop.

noamsain 09/20/12 - 09:22 pm
Meanwhile teachers are

Meanwhile teachers are getting 9 furlough days....Wow! And to think there are some people that are going to vote for the incumbent B.O.E. members up for re-election....the definition of insanity...keep doing the same thing over and over and expect the same results!
Vote the incumbents out and get someone in who has enough common sense to get things done for teachers and the kids that go to work and school everyday.

I am tired of paying for someone else's fun.....should have thought about all that before you dropped draws and had your 15 minutes of fun....

Cestlavie 09/20/12 - 11:37 pm

I certainly applaud the students who have taken advantage of this high school DIPLOMA program (NOT GED ~ there is a difference). Most people who attain more education become more productive citizens, which means fewer people breaking into your houses. It is a shame that the program has to be discontinued, but difficult decisions must be made during these economic times. The pre-K program is necessary these days because many parents don't take the time to teach their children the alphabet, numbers, colors, or basic directions. If they don't get this until kindergarten, they will already be behind. What needs to be cut is the dead weight of the paper pushers downtown.

fedex227 09/21/12 - 12:00 am
'What needs to be cut is the dead weight of the paper

pushers downtown.' Or the waste of spending over $500,000 trying to get rid of some two-bit porno shop on Gordon Highway. Richmond County= priorities way out of whack.

lynn7044 09/21/12 - 05:41 am
Another Example

Here is another example of the RCSB making choices about our education system without taxpayers having no input. Mrs. Roundtree is a joke, how are you going to say you are going to look for grants to maybe restart the program. She knew at least a year ago that the program was going to end and didn't look for grants then so how are you now going to say what you are going to do now. Yet, we as RC taxpayers can't go to the schoolboard meeting to make comment or question them on choices which are made with our tax dollars.
The RCSB have to much power in the wrong places, they give themself a raise and take away from our teachers. Haven't seen them take a cut in there check. Our teacher who still doing more with so much less are not evening looking to the school board for help.
It's sad how if teacher speak out about thing they know are wrong within the school board they could lose there job or be blackball. Yet, we as taxpayers are being blackball as well because we can't speak out about what's g oing on with our tax dollars.
There was a time that you could see what was going to be discuss at the RCBOE meeting so anyone could make comment or ask question. Now, l see that have stop as well.
It's time for parents, taxpayers, and anyone who wants better to come together to force the leaders to do what's right for us all. Take back Richmond County and Richmond County Board of Education from the "Good Ol Boys" . We pay taxes too.

seenitB4 09/21/12 - 07:40 am
Wait just a dadburn minute

If this program actually worked .....I say try to continue the studies....we need educated workers in our midst....did it work??
Let each person contribute something to each class...say $10 or $15 dollars each night.....
We can cut a lot of crap.....why this?

itsanotherday1 09/21/12 - 09:21 am
I tend to agree with seenit.

I tend to agree with seenit. IF there is a positive return on the investment, it makes sense to keep it. However, if there is another program in town people have access to, no point in the redundancy.

dstewartsr 09/21/12 - 09:22 am
First, run a dropout mill

... then when people come back after learning the life lessons dropping out of school has taught; cut the legs out from under the program that enables them to get a diploma. Sure, that way we can keep on the layers of office staff who keep the present failure machinery going. Paying for more dropouts while stiffarming those actually trying. Slick.

puppydog 09/21/12 - 11:07 am
itsanotherday1: "However, if

itsanotherday1: "However, if there is another program in town people have access to, no point in the redundancy."

The article states there is no other program in town where these individuals can get a high school diploma. And getting a GED is in no way comparable to a high school diploma. They will be asked for the rest of their lives on school & college applications & job applications if they have a high school diploma. If they have a GED, they have to answer this question "no" for the high school diploma & put down that they have a GED. For the ones who are willing to put in the time and effort to attend these classes (which are the same classes and same books that the high schools use, & it's many nights of classes & many tests, not just 1, so it's not a piece of cake), they should get the opportunity. They are trying to better themselves and become productive members of society, which will benefit us all. I think the school system should do what it can to reinstate this worthwhile program. Maybe cut back on Pre-K or administrators.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 09/21/12 - 11:46 am

Public schooling should be for persons 18 years old and younger. Once you turn 19 you should pay the full freight for any classes you take to get a full diploma or a GED. Taxpayers carried you long enough. You need to pay your way at some point.

Some of us did build that.

Dudeness 09/21/12 - 03:32 pm
I was about to make almost

I was about to make almost the exact comment as LL. Once you hit about 20, it's time for you to fund your own education. We shouldn't be on the hook for your entire life should you ever decide that you are ready to finish high school. Next up on the cutting block needs to be the "free" or reduced breakfast and lunches that are given to the majority of students.

Tullie 09/22/12 - 05:03 am
Free Lunches

I doubt the free breakfasts and lunches go away. People seem to think we need to take care of people from birth to death..especially the ones in the City.

Look at the tax situtation..rather than just get out of the trash collection business and let everyone pay for their own, they are worried how the city folks will pay. They don't care that they are unfair to force the county folks to pay twice as much for trash collection. We do not want to have the city people worry about how they can pay for trash..makes me sick.

I wish we had someone to worry about us the way they do them downtown.

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