NEWPORT – When SAD 48 directors recently learned that the district’s adult education program needed $35,000 to survive, not the $25,000 originally budgeted, they quickly added the extra funds to the controversial budget.
The budget in SAD 48 has been voted down four times, including the adult education portion. But after adult education director Suzanne Rojas described her program recently to board members, it appears that it will be overwhelmingly favored for passage Jan. 6.
“People seemed to have the misperception that adult education was about basket weaving and belly dancing,” said Rojas on Tuesday. “Enrichment is a part of what we do and the income from enrichment classes fund the academic program, which is our main role.”
The $35,000 that SAD 48 will spend on adult education will trigger $106,915 in state funding. Those funds, said Rojas, will go directly into the district’s general fund, not the special education budget.
All enrichment classes, such as archery, fitness, woodworking, ballroom dancing or knitting, are self-sustaining, she said, paid in full by class fees. They continue to be popular and draw a wide range of people, said Rojas.
“But the main role of the program is academic achievement,” she said. Students are working to get their GED high school equivalency diploma or taking some of the more than 200 college courses online. Many of Rojas’ students are displaced workers.
And the program under the four years of Rojas’ full-time leadership is paying off.
Since 2000, 142 students have received either a high school diploma or GED, and 32 have received their certified nursing assistant certificates.
This type of success, she said, is vital in central Maine. In the SAD 48 six-town area, there are communities where more than 11 percent of the population has less than a ninth-grade education. In two of the towns, 25 percent of the population does not have a high school diploma.
“It can be really scary when you look at those statistics,” said Rojas.
She said the SAD 48 adult education students range from 16 to 80 years old and have various goals and needs. “Our literacy clientele are not stereotypical low-level readers,” she added. “Their goals vary depending on the individual.”
“We’re here to sort of pick up the pieces,” said Rojas. “Some people, just two years after dropping out of school, realize they aren’t employable without a diploma. Then of course there are displaced workers that need additional, marketable skills. We have even had parents with high school diplomas that cannot read to their children.”
Rojas said she works hard to tailor a program to the student. “Many of these people fell through the cracks once. I don’t want that to happen again,” she said.