More resignations hit Ogden's Marshall White Center

Saturday , August 16, 2014 - 9:42 AM

OGDEN — The workplace environment at the Marshall White Center appears to be heading downhill fast, as another set of resignations has occurred, this time over a new youth programs enrollment policy.

Ogden resident Jeremy Heath, who has been a karate instructor at Marshall White for the past five years, resigned Thursday after he learned youth program enrollment policies had been changed under the direction of the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership. Heath said a Cub Scouts leader and archery teacher at the center have also resigned.

According to Heath and several parents who have children participating in classes at the center, Marshall White will no longer allow repeat class enrollment for its youth. In other words, only beginner students will be allowed to participate in the center’s youth programs.

“If they take a class once, and they love it or they are really good at, well, too bad,” Heath said. “They can go continue at some other private institution. That’s what OWCAP is saying with this new policy.”

Like Health, many parents of Marshall White students are upset with the new youth guidelines.

Rebecca Vaughn, whose son Anakin takes piano and karate at the center, said continuity in the youth programs is essential for her son’s development. Anakin was recently hit by a car walking through a crosswalk on 12th Street and suffered a brain injury. Vaughn said karate has helped her son’s balance and discipline, and piano has improved his cognition.

“I feel like my son needed to continue in these classes,” Vaughn said. “And to tell him he can’t do that or has to go somewhere else, that’s not right.”

Amber Levingston, whose daughter has taken karate at Marshall White for the past 2 1/2 years, said the new policy will drive many kids away from not only Marshall White, but also the activities they were involved in.

“I guess they only want Marshall White to be a steppingstone,” Levingston said. “And that’s a shame because there are a lot of dedicated kids who are taking these classes and getting better, and they’re going to have to stop. If you go anywhere outside of Marshall White for these same kinds of classes, it’s 10 times more expensive. A lot of people just can’t afford to do that.”

Heath said rumors of the policy change had been circulating for weeks, but neither employees of the center nor parents of children who attend it had been able to get anything substantiated until Thursday night, when a formal announcement was made at the center by management.

“The parents have been trying to confirm it for weeks,” Heath said. “And we’ve been trying to confirm it as employees as well.”

Vaughn said she, too, has been kept in the dark.

“We’ve heard (the policy change) was happening, then we heard it wasn’t,” she said. “Every time we go to class, we hear a different story.”

OWCAP took over management of Marshall White in June 2009 and works as a contractor for Ogden city. Under the management agreement, the city reimburses OWCAP up to $40,000 a month for expenses to operate the center at 222 28th St. The agreement also stipulates that savings and cost overages be split equally between the two parties, but Ogden city has essentially no role in managing the center.

Multiple attempts by the Standard-Examiner to reach OWCAP Director Donald Carpenter for clarification on the new enrollment policy were unsuccessful this week. Calls and emails to acting Marshall White Director Angela Rowe also failed to yield a response.

With the latest round of resignations, it seems departure is becoming a trend at the center. In June 2013, Jill Barker, who was assistant director, announced her resignation at an Ogden City Council meeting. 

In June of this year, former Marshall White director Tyrone Aranda resigned, citing differences with OWCAP’s management style. Weeks before Aranda resigned, Sara Mason, who had taken over as assistant director for Barker, resigned as well.

“They’re running all of their best people out of there,” Heath said.

To convolute the situation even further, Heath said that although he’s already resigned, he’d heard he was going to be terminated by OWCAP for playing the role of whistleblower and letting parents know the changes were on the horizon.

An email that was sent to both Heath and Rowe by Debra Wray-Perry, OWCAP financial controller, was obtained by the Standard-Examiner. 

“Mr. Heath is not an employee, and we have not terminated him,” a portion of the email says. “We are paying him based on a contract which ends today (Friday).”

Heath said he has sent a letter to Ogden city and the city council, in hopes the city will address the situation.

“Five years ago, the Marshall White Center was on the verge of closing,” Heath said. “And if OWCAP keeps doing what they’re doing, it’s going to be right back in that same situation.”

The Marshall White Community Center opened in 1968 and is named after Marshall N. White, an Ogden Police Department detective who was killed in the line of duty in 1963.

His portrait hangs near the main entrance of the center.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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