Heads Of The Adult School Of Montclair Say They Are Fighting To Survive

ASM will plead its case at Monday night's school board meeting


Suzy Kass, executive director of the Adult School of Montclair, told Montclair Patch that the school may have to close within the next 18 months if it can't persuade the Montclair Board of Education to provide more support.

After years of mostly "breaking even," she says the Adult School of Montclair took a huge hit last year when the Montclair Board of Education—facing its own financial challenges—decided that the Adult School would have to start covering the costs of its employees' health and benefit plans.

Previously, those costs—estimated at about $55,000—were funded by the school district.

"We could only last another one and a half years on the budget we have now," Kass said.

Kass and Jon Bonesteel, the head of the school's Board of Trustees, want the Board of Education to give the Adult School five years to start covering the health and benefit costs.

The Adult School has three full-time employees and one part-time employee.

"We want the board to give us five years to phase this in," Bonesteel said.

Kass emphsaized that the school is not out to make money.

"We're a break-even institution," she said. "We don't want to raise tuition.

"We've already raised tuition the last three semesters in a row," she added.

On Sunday, the Adult School of Montclair sent out an email asking residents to turn out at Monday night's school board meeting to show their support for the Adult School.

"We need the MBOE to partner with us as we retool to meet the additional costs it now requires us to assume," the email said.

At the board meeting, Kass and Bonesteel plan to release the Adult School's five-year plan "for self-reliance and community dynamism."

Currently, the Adult School's budget is about $500,000. The school pays the district about $30,000 to rent its facilities.

Kass said that the Adult School, which already offers more than 200 live classes, would like to add even more classes to its schedule in the future.

"We really want to build this program, working with schools and other partners," she said.

Bonesteel added that the goal is to make the school "significant and not just successful."

The Adult School also has asked its supporters to go on its website here to sign a petition in support of the school.

The school board meeting is at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 5 at the high school's George Inness Annex Atrium at 141 Park Street.

frank rubacky March 05, 2012 at 04:46 PM
5.2, 5.6, 5.9 % increases... c'mon, we're splitting decimal points here. When was the last time an approved budget significantly varied from an introduced budget? We have the untouchables: education, fire, police, debt service and mandated costs. No slate is going to zero out Pre-K or the library - or cut seniors services. Ninja, you are part of the 40% that don't have children in the public schools. I was crossing at a intersection today asked the crossing guard why he didn't come out to help. He said they were instructed this year o only cross children, mothers with strollers, and seniors. I had to laugh. You should be advocating a 6-8% increase and at least get funding for some things you want. I personally like my trash/recycling guys, so I vote to not outsource them. What would you like?
Jon Bonesteel March 05, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Actually, from the BoE's own numbers (which we received from Cary Chevat and I have not vetted) there are approximately 15000 households in Montclair of which there are 4000 with kids in the school system, so the percentage is more like 74% that don't Frank. While we're on percentages (ninja), the $53K is 0.04 percent (four one hundredths of a percent) of the total budget. The plan presented calls for decreases each year as we ramp up development and growth efforts. After the third year of the plan, payments to the BoE will be a net positive considering that we (ASM) pay $30k a year in rent. I feel it's a good value proposition given all that we bring the community, and hopefully some new programs that interface more with the K-12 community. If you come out tonight, you'll hear about one of them. Thanks, Jon
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The cutoff was already delayed a year. http://www.baristanet.com/2011/02/adult-school-asks-for-time/ Note that last year the benefits were $48,000 and this year $55,000. At the same rate of growth next year will be $63,000.
Butterfly March 05, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Do you happen to know what kind of group plan the town is providing? Is it something like a NJ wide civil service group plan or something specific for town employees? I might tend to think is the latter.
Butterfly March 05, 2012 at 05:49 PM
BTW: the number is bound to rise. If you look at recent federal employment figure, one sector which is growing is the healthcare industry. This implies higher healthcare premiums in the future.
frank rubacky March 05, 2012 at 05:57 PM
26%... about the same % that voted in the last election. Jon, I wouldn't worry about the ASM too much. I think the BOE can afford to help this year, but I don't know about next year. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the BOE announced it had figured out a way to throw a little support to the Pre-K. Regardless, it will still be a 5+% increase.
Jon Bonesteel March 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I won't debate an un-named person, but the information presented is not accurate.
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 06:02 PM
so don't debate. correct the information and list a source.
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 06:03 PM
all the more reason for taxpayers not to fund this, and other programs and services which are nice to have but not necessary. I am simply amazed that at a time when the public schools are cutting services for children (their primary responsibility) that eliminating other programs not related to the education of children is even a subject of discussion. The Adult School should never have been at taxpayer expense in the first place. There are also other intangibles not being mentioned. The Adult School activities were added to the district's liability insurance policy. What is the cost of that?
frank rubacky March 05, 2012 at 06:07 PM
RoC, I think they came off the ins this year.
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 06:15 PM
The adult school claims 6000 students per year. So raise the fees $9 per person and the shortfall is covered. There is no need nor logic as to why the taxpayer should cover this.
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 06:38 PM
nope Frank. They're still on it. http://bit.ly/z6t7oX Bottom of Page 8, top of page 9.
frank rubacky March 05, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Sorry, I stand corrected.
frank rubacky March 05, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Jon - problem solved. Raise tuition at same rate as municipal tax levy. Drop coverage for p/t employee...BOE doesn't cover p/t's. Rent booths in lobby to insurance agents, accountants, personal trainers, etc. to hawk their wares. Have BOE discount rent 20%.
Right of Center March 05, 2012 at 06:56 PM
http://bit.ly/xxIhhV (plate 5) Last year we paid $8 million for "pensions, social security and unemployement insurance"
Kevin March 05, 2012 at 07:30 PM
If I see a course at the adult school that interests me, I am willing to pay for it. I don't see why anyone should expect these courses to be subsidized.
Kay March 05, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Actually, $16k / year is pretty reasonable! My big ol' NJ corporate employer offers COBRA benefits for $1800/month for family coverage with copays, co-insurance and deductibles (and that's in-network). In SoCal I believe adult schools were part and parcel of the local school districts (which encompassed more than one town, but I believe are funded by the county school tax levy). Of course, California is now broke... But the adult schools sure were nice - they utilized the HS facilities as well as junior colleges and local rec centers. Very big enterprise. If I had time I would love to take classes at Montclair's adult school. Gotta wait til the young'uns flee the nest though.
Stuart Weissman March 06, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I attended an ASM class about ten year's ago. It was actually a bit pricey even back then. I attended a class on residential investment property that was given by a local realtor. Unfortunately, the advice was terrible and the class seemed more like an opportunity for this buying agent to drum up future business. I was so disappointed that I nearly asked for my tuition back.
John Lee March 06, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Any word on how things went last night?
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 12:13 PM
John.. at this stage the budget did not give the Adult School what it was looking for, but the budget can still be changed before a final vote is taken on March 19.
A. Gideon March 06, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Something I don't believe has been mentioned: ASM serves people from outside of Montclair as well as Montclair citizens. Whether the town should fund education for adults, whether this should include "entertainment", etc. are all interesting discussion topics. However, is there even a question about Montclair property taxes subsidizing education/entertainment for those from beyond our borders? Perhaps somewhat different approach is in order. The BOE is responsible for the education of Montclair's children. Perhaps ASM's function is more in line with the mandate of the town's library? With respect to local and non-local attendees of ASM events, perhaps a funding model which includes tiered pricing would address this as well as help bring in some of the cash ASM would require to actually be self-funding? Speaking of which: Why is ASM still claiming to be self-supporting? The Fall and Spring 2010 catalogs included: "ASM has always been self-supporting". I don't see this in the Spring 2012 catalog. But http://adultschool.org/developmenLUMs.html still includes this. The BOE has been subsidizing ASM since 1967. ...Andrew
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I do know that a Glen Ridge BOE member spoke last night to say that Glen Ridge residents also utilize the Adult School.
A. Gideon March 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I'm afraid that I had to miss this most recent meeting. Did the speaking GR BOE member say anything about possible cost-sharing for ASM? ...Andrew
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 09:22 PM
It was GR Board President Betsy Ginsburg who spoke. She said nothing about cost sharing.. only that Glen Ridge had once tried to start an Adult School, to no avail. She spoke about how hard it is get reinstate a program such as the Adult School once it goes away.
A. Gideon March 06, 2012 at 09:59 PM
"She said nothing about cost sharing.. only that Glen Ridge had once tried to start an Adult School, to no avail. She spoke about how hard it is get reinstate a program such as the Adult School once it goes away." So...it was "Thanks; we couldn't do this and we won't pay for it so thanks to Montclair taxpayers for subsidizing GR citizens." Or did it even include a "thanks"? I'm sorry; I know that this isn't a particularly pleasant tone for me to take. And I recognize that I'm basing this on what is effectively hearsay. Still, for someone from GR to suggest that we continue to subsidize this program - from which GR benefits - w/o making any offer to help cover the costs just seems to be rather inappropriate. ...Andrew
Theodora McKee March 06, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I am sorry that you few people who don't like the Adult School are so free with your comments, and I hope that the thousands of people who take courses and have taken them in the past realize what they may be losing. Speak up, those of you who value ASM, who don't want to see it go under. Ask the candidates who are running for the privilege of managing this town where they stand on supporting ASM - and vote accordingly. ASM is a resource not to be destroyed.
Right of Center March 06, 2012 at 10:47 PM
I like the ASM. I had no idea until recently it was subsidized by the taxpayer. That's the only part I'm against. Long may it live, if self-supported (as it speciously claims on it's website).
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I have taken a variety of classes at the ASM and have enjoyed every one of them.
A. Gideon March 06, 2012 at 10:57 PM
"I am sorry that you few people who don't like the Adult School are so free with your comments, and I hope that the thousands of people who take courses and have taken them in the past realize what they may be losing." I hope this isn't a reflection of ASM students being so quick to leap to incorrect conclusions given a complete lack of data. As it happens, I have taken an ASM class. It is quite possible for someone to have done so but still have some or all of such questions as: o Should this be subsidized by the town? o Should it be on the school budget? o Should the subsidy include coverage for those from outside of Montclair? There's no reason to try to turn this into a personal matter of "liking" ASM or not, nor having taken classes or not. As it happens, I do "like" ASM. I just don't know if my liking it is sufficient reason to grant it a taxpayer subsidy, much less one that benefits non-residents. Trying to make this a personal matter smacks of that radio host that's been in the news recently having stooped to personal attacks so as to avoid an actual discussion of the issues. Nobody's being as vulger as I understand he was, but there's still plenty of room for discussion of these questions w/o it degrading to likes or dislikes or who is in one group or another. Ultimately, we are all in the same group: Montclair taxpayers. ...Andrew
Butterfly March 07, 2012 at 03:35 AM
All this drama, why not raise the fees and be done with it ? Its not like 55k is the lynchpin here for the ASM. Its the access to the facilities


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