Education committee learns about the Bridges program

Friday, January 16, 2015

By Karen Hall


The County Commission's education committee met for the first time since the August election to discuss a resolution which Anna Childress will present to the Commission on Jan. 26, relating to changes in the school budget.

"It's money in and money out," said committee member Tony Beyer, after studying the resolution.

"It is kind of confusing," said Schools Budget Director Janet Wiles. "Bridges is the big one."

She went on to explain the Bridges after-school program involves a lot of record keeping, but said, "It's worth it, we serve a lot of children."

More than 300 students participate in Bridges until 5:30 p.m. four afternoons a week. It is funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant from the state, and the amount coming into the budget from this grant is $384,650.

Committee member Jennifer Smith, a teacher, said the hours students spend in the Bridges program after school are organized just like a regular school day, with a set time allotted for math, English, and so on, but time is also spent on enrichment activities, like art and music. Also, help with homework is offered.

"They have great field trips," Smith exclaimed. "The kids love it."

Bridges also operates for part of the summer vacation.

"It's voluntary," added Childress. "The teachers volunteer (for it), too."

Committee members unanimously approved the resolution.

Wiles also talked to the committee about money which was set aside for school expenditures by the Commission in the 2012-2013 budget, and has now been used up, without school board members knowing where it has gone.

"The auditors should have caught it last year," she said.

"Melinda (White, county budget director) is still finding things that are different from what's on the books," said Beyer. "She's trying to be very cautious right now; she's doing a great job."

"Yes, she is," agreed Childress.

White was not at the committee meeting to explain what might have happened to the schools' money because she was away at a conference. Commissioners hoped for further clarification from her at Thursday night's meeting of the budget committee.

In other business, committee members elected Childress as their chairman, Beyer as vice chairman, and John Christmas as secretary.