OGDEN -- The Ogden School District is discontinuing its Adult Education program, which serves more than 250 late teen and adult students completing studies to earn high school diplomas.
"I was told Monday, before our office got news from the Ogden School District," said Sharilyn Gerber, who is lead teacher in Ogden's adult education program and who also serves on the Weber School District School Board. "I got the news from the Weber School District that they were taking over our program."
Adult education students who formerly studied at the Ogden School District site, at George Washington High School, will now be referred to a Weber School District adult education program site at Two Rivers High School, nearly four miles to the northwest.
"A lot of our students, most of whom are parents, are from the inner city," Gerber said. "They walk here, or take the bus. To tell them to go to Two Rivers is a heck of a bus ride or walk. These adults just want to get a high school diploma and better their lives and set a better example for their children, and now they are going to be left out."
Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith made the decision, which was not discussed or approved by the Ogden School Board.
"There was no school being closed, and it wasn't a major budgetary issue," Smith said. "I don't believe a vote is required."
Smith said he made his decision to close the Adult Education program because it required too much time and focus from Sarah Roberts, George Washington High School principal.
"It simply wasn't compatible with the mission of George Washington High," Smith said of the Adult Education program. "Washington High has been this collection of different programs put together, frankly, because there was no place else they fit better. The high school's purpose is to take a select group of students with very specific needs. Adult Ed is for kids or adults who have dropped out of the system and want to come back. Those missions were not sufficiently compatible to continue."
Gerber said the district's adult education program has had a few rough patches with the OSD in the past. She said adult education program administrators put about $100,000 into the renovation of Edison Elementary, the building that became alternative school George Washington High. But after investing in the building, at 455 28th St., Adult Education was told to move its operation into one classroom and portables behind the school. The outdoor buildings lack restrooms, Gerber said.
Gerber also said she's surprised that Smith, currently making cuts because of the district's budget crunch, would turn his back on the money the adult education program brings in. Gerber said that through various grants, government funding and student fees, adult education contributed about $70,000 to Ogden School District last school year, and it costs the district nothing. A portion of principal Roberts' salary comes from adult education funds, Gerber said.
Smith balked at the claim.
"I would be quite surprised if it was $70,000," he said. "It's supposed to be a revenue-neutral program, where money spent is reimbursed from grants. There's no money-making about it. It pays the principal a fifth of her salary, but it consumes more than a fifth of the principal's time. If you are asking what is the most important resources I have, it's not money, it's people's time."
Adult education student Teresa Anderson, 37, of Washington Terrace, said she's not sure what she'll do if she can't graduate by June.
"The teachers at Two Rivers are not the teachers I need," said Anderson, whose studies have been delayed by medical problems, surgeries and learning disabilities, undiagnosed until she was 13.
"From elementary school on, it was the Ogden City Schools that failed me," she said. "Now I've got this adult education program and I'm motivated, and they are taking this away, too?"
Anderson said she has failed at three other high school diploma programs, but she's close to meeting her requirements this time because of the gifted and compassionate teachers in OSD's adult education program.
"I just wish Brad Smith and the school board would have come in, and seen what wonderful work this school is doing, and what hard-working teachers we have," she said.
Anderson said Janean Montgomery, the program's math teacher, makes math easy to understand and is endlessly patient.
"She is the most wonderful math teacher I have found," Anderson said. "My children have a new math curriculum, and if I have a problem I can take in my kid's assignment, and she shows me how to work the problem and explain it to my son. This decision by Brad Smith will effect not only adult education, but children. If adults don't learn, how are their children going to learn?"
Gerber echoed that concern.
"We serve an at-risk population," she said. "We serve the poorest of the poor. Why would you cut a program that helps people and, by extension, their children, and that costs you nothing? It's a slap in the face to our community members. It's a slap because it's saying, 'If you want to better your life and get an education, you have to go to another district because Ogden doesn't want you anymore.'"