Last spring, facing a 2-percent cap on property tax increases, the East Hampton School Board sliced more than $2 million from its annual budget. Joan Carlson, who oversaw the district’s adult education program for more than 20 years, was among the handful of employees suddenly out of a job. The fate of the program has hung in the balance ever since.
Going forward, the adult education program will continue to exist — but with far reduced and limited offerings. “Because of these difficult economic times, we’re hoping things run fairly the same, and that courses are cost-effective,” Richard Burns, the district superintendent, said in a conversation this summer.
In the absence of Ms. Carlson, Phillip Pratt, the assistant principal at East Hampton High School and Middle School, will oversee the program.
The district will continue to offer classes that are “educational and self-sustaining,” according to a statement. While computer courses, defensive driving, and English as a second language will continue to be offered, “we have eliminated taxpayer subsidized recreational classes like yoga, dance, and zumba, which are offered locally by small businesses.”
According to Bridget LeRoy, communications consultant for the district, all classes will be held on weekdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at the high school starting in mid-October.
“Nothing is set in stone right now, except for a one-time prelicensing class for adults, taught by Tina Giles — with maybe a few surprises thrown in,” Ms. LeRoy said. She added that the forms for the adult education program have always stipulated that classes can face cancellation as a result of insufficient registration.
“This year the district will be taking that seriously, to save taxpayer dollars,” said Ms. LeRoy. “As wonderful a program as it has always been, it has run in the red. The goal will be not only to bring interesting educational opportunities to the public, but also to create a self-sufficient program that can continue to expand in the years to come.”
Ms. Carlson, who oversaw the program from 1991 until last spring, said she witnessed a program that “grew and grew and grew.” But with courses that ranged in price from $65 to $100, the numbers dwindled in recent years, likely because of the bad economy.
From cake decorating to fiction writing, she described the adult education program as popular with senior citizens but also as a vital and badly needed resource for single mothers and the working poor.
“I was very happy there. I never would have quit that job,” said Ms. Carlson, who lives in Sag Harbor. “I will help however I can to make sure it continues.”