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4/3/2014 7:00:00 AM
Adult Education Director Urges Continued Support of Program

Wiscasset Adult & Community Education Director Anne Fensie is ready to present a reduced budget to the Wicasset School Board on April 3. (Kathy Onorato photo)
Wiscasset Adult & Community Education Director Anne Fensie is ready to present a reduced budget to the Wicasset School Board on April 3. (Kathy Onorato photo)
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By Kathy Onorato

Anne Fensie, director of Wiscasset Adult & Community Education said she will fight tooth and nail to make residents understand the need to continue Wiscasset's adult education programs after she was asked by the Wiscasset School Board to return with a smaller budget.

Fensie said she was left with the impression the Wiscasset School Board didn't want to support the adult education program due to budgetary concerns. She has started an online petition to provide an option for people to have a voice and offer an opinion.

"While the school board recognizes the high quality of programs at Wiscasset Adult & Community Education, they are not interested in continuing to support it in the new Wiscasset School District," the petition says.

The online petition has gathered about 130 signatures as of April 1. Many signing the petition have also posted comments supporting the continuation of the program.

"This is an important program with wide reaching impacts. Please fund Adult Ed," posted Anneliese Pugh, from Alna.

Damariscotta resident Bruce Evans posted, "We are constantly facing difficult choices in terms of budgets around the country - on every level, and concerning many types of services. To curtail education, ever, is a true mistake in terms of advancing our country, our citizens, and our quality of life. When times are tough we do not need less education, we need more. Time to join the 21st century and realize that education is not a luxury, it is a necessity."

In an interview March 31, Fensie said the first budget she presented to the Wiscasset School Board included a 30 percent increase in her salary, which didn't go over well with the new board, she said. The board asked Fensie to make reductions to the budget and then return to the board.

Fensie said the request for a 30 percent increase in her salary was to allow room for contract negotiations. Although she never received anything in writing, she said when was hired six years ago, she was told by then- Superintendent Jay McIntire her salary would be adjusted once she earned her professional certification as an adult education director.

Fensie said she has obtained the professional certification and said she would like to be compensated as she was promised. "It takes a long time to earn the certification," Fensie said.

On April 3 Fensie plans to present a total budget of $310,413 to the Wiscasset School Board. Of the total budget, Wiscasset taxpayers will be asked to contribute $78,897 to fund adult and community education. Her new budget represents a 12 percent decrease from the budget presented earlier in March.

Fensie has reduced her request for a 30 percent salary increase to a three present increase.

Fensie says she understands the position of the new school board, but wants them to fully understand the program and the potential impact of eliminating the program.

"I know the board is tasked with a Herculean task. It's easy to get lost in the details," Fensie said.

On March 26, Wiscasset interim Superintendent Wayne Dorr and the school board discussed the possibility funding the only the program geared to help students age 16 to 25 earn their high school diploma. Dorr said the program could be funded for about $10,000.

The high school diploma program is only one aspect of the adult education, and eliminating the other programs would be doing a great disservice to the community, Fensie said.

In Fiscal Year 2012 there was a total of 1525 enrollments, Fensie said. Of those, 237 were for business and skills training; 248 college transitions; 226 high school completions; 451 adult and family literacy; and 363 personal enrichment. Fensie said she is still working on enrollment data for FY 2013.

"Very few people see the whole picture," said Fensie.

The funding for the program is very complex, Fensie said. It includes a local contribution, fees from subsidized courses, federal grants, state funding, college transitions, fees for enrichment courses, WorkReady contracts; and University of Maine ITV.

Fensie said the state funding is based on a two-year average of student count as well as the local contribution. "It's designed for communities to support adult ed," Fensie said.

The adult education program goes well beyond Wiscasset and therefore brings people from the entire region to Wiscasset, which exposes many to this community, Fensie said.

"In small ways we impact the community through education, job skills and business. It's a complicated fabric we weave here at adult education," said Fensie.

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