Mad River Union
MANILA – There may be a showdown Thursday, June 18 in the salty outpost of Manila, where a divided board of directors may decide the fate of the Manila Family Resource Center.
The Manila Community Services District Board of Directors meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Manila Community Center, 1611 Peninsula Drive. The board is scheduled to consider transfering the Family Resource Center from the district to Redwood Coast Montessori School.
Supporters of the proposal say that the school, which rents classroom space from the district at the Manila Community Center, is in a better position to run the resource center. The school, they say, would be able to expand the resource center’s offerings.
But opponents of the change say that the Manila CSD should continue to run the program, which they also want expanded.
Here is the board packet for Thursday's meeting: Packet June 18 2015r1
Below are two views on the subject. The first is from a group called Voices of the Peninsula. The opinion was submitted to the Mad River Union by Voices member Bev Prosser. After the Voices opinion is a post that Manila CSD boardmember Jan Bramlett posted today on the NextDoor Manila social media site.
Voices of the Peninsula
MANILA’S COMMUNITY CENTER IS AT A CROSSROADS!
Voices of the Peninsula, a group of volunteers dedicated to increasing public participation in community matters, is pleased to announce the release of its final report on the results of the surveys taken of peninsula residents.
Recognizing that Manila’s Community Center is at a crossroads, Voices undertook the survey project as a means to involve community input on the site’s future use.
Redwood Coast Montessori, a tenant at the community center, is seeking to expand. Manila Community Services District has been operating a Family Resource Center at the site for more than fifteen years and until last year had rented four of the classrooms for its operations. Last year, the charter school expansion resulted in a loss of two of the rooms to the charter school. Now, the Manila Community Services District board will be deciding whether to turn over one or both rooms to the charter school or to turn over operation and management of the Family Resource Center to the charter school.
Although the Manila Community Services District held two visioning workshops on Sunday afternoons in April to build community consensus in the decision-making, the majority of the participants at the workshops were not Manila residents but instead were associated with the charter school.
In contrast, Voices of the Peninsula Voices volunteers contacted a total of 372 peninsula households of which 255 were Manila households. Of the 372 households contacted, 219 resulted in surveys of which 162 were Manila households. Of the 162 Manila households surveyed, 94% (153) favored the Manila Community Services District retaining two classrooms for use by the Family Resource Center and community; less than 3% (4) were opposed, and another 3% (5) were neutral or undecided.
The justification offered for the transfer of Family Resource Center management and operations to the charter school is that it is an opportunity to streamline needs between the community and the school even though the charter school has not developed a plan of action, nor expressed a community involvement objective in their future tenancy. Redwood Coast Montessori’s primary charter is for the education of the children enrolled at their school, and none of the charter school’s board’s directors are Manila residents.
Manila’s Family Resource Center has never run a deficit! In fact, from fundraising, the Family Resource Center has a surplus.
Moreover, Voices of the Peninsula survey results show that peninsula community residents support the Manila Community Services retaining the two rooms for Family Resource Center and community use. The majority of survey respondents identified value in belonging to a community that offered programs and services to community members, particularly children and senior citizens, telling volunteers that while they might not personally use a family, youth, or elder program, they strongly supported having such programs and services available. Most individuals surveyed expressed a sentiment similar to the words of one respondent – I would rather be part of a community that cares for those in need as opposed to one that turns its back.
The Family Resource Center provides opportunities for community connections: community connections that strengthen families; community connections that give youth and children recreational experiences that they might not otherwise receive; community connections that reduce the sense of isolation that can lead to health and other problems; and community connections that promote civic participation.
Also at issue is appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. The Manila Community Services District acquired the community center property in 1991 with California Coastal Conservancy funds for purposes of public access and restoration. An Offer to Dedicate was recorded at the time of acquisition, which binds the District to using the property for these purposes. Additionally, a deed of restriction, recorded in 2012, indicates rental profits from the community center are to be used for recreation. It is not clear how the District has used or plans to use rental profits for public access, restoration, or recreation.
Survey respondents’ values are not measurable in financial terms. Based on community members surveyed, Manila CSD’s acquisition of the school and other Manila Dunes Recreation Area properties for beach and dunes access was a district decision that can be considered strongly supported. Beach and dunes access and trails received the highest numbers for past and present participation and future availability.
Having community coastal access and trails is a benefit not easily measured in financial terms, and the same can be said for having recreation opportunities for under served or impoverished children, a place for elders to gather regularly and connect, support for families in stress, or referral assistance for individuals in need. Survey results reflect community members’ appreciation of these indirect benefits by a showing of strong support for family resource center, senior, and recreation activities. Additionally, community members surveyed indicated enthusiasm for having public events at the community center site.
The survey experience led Voices of the Peninsula volunteers to conclude that other than focusing on specific programs, activities, or facilities, an interesting question worth asking might be – to what kind of community would you like to belong?
For more information about Voices of the Peninsula and/or for an electronic copy of the final report, contact Beverly Prosser, 1859 Park Street, Manila, CA 95521, (707) 445-0964, [email protected]>
NextDoor posting by Jan Bramlett
This Thursday’s Board Meeting is one not to be missed – at the Manila Community Center/Redwood Coast Montessori School, 1611 Peninsula Drive, June 18, 6:30pm. For several months now, the Board and community members have been engaged in conversation about the direction of Manila’s Community Center and Family Resource Center, and the roles of the FRC and the RCM in our beautiful seaside neighborhood.
I believe there is a consensus in Manila that we need to improve services, recreation programs, and grow the school so that it can serve children from Kindergarten through 8th grade. More and more schools are extending elementary education through to 8th grade because it is a more stable environment for the children.
Discussion of the appropriateness of having our Water and Sewer District manage a social services entity like the Family Resource Center has been taking place for several years. According to Board minutes dated June 18, 2006, a stipulation of the MCSD signing the contract with the Department of Health and Human Services for Resource Center funding was that then-Program Manager Salena Kahle would seek a different fiscal sponsor for the program. In August, 2010, the Board asked Ms. Kahle about a new fiscal sponsor and she said she had identified some possibilities, but had not acted on it because the District seemed dependent on the funds from DHHS.
Most other Water and Sewer Districts do not manage such programs—it is not generally in their expertise. I have thought long and hard about this issue, and the idea of having an outside sponsor such as St. Joe’s did not appeal to me. I have heard people comment—and I agree—that we need an entity that is locally based, easily accessible, and responsible and responsive to Manila residents. My opinion is that Redwood Coast Montessori school fits that bill. They are right here on site, they hold Board meetings that any member of the public can attend, and in my experience over the last three years, Bryan Little has been accessible and fully responsible in all dealings he has had with the MCSD Board—he has attended nearly every Board meeting between the spring of 2013 and today, and he has been available whenever I have had questions or needed information. That’s commitment.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Montessori method, you may want to check in with school Director Bryan Little and ask for a tour. It is quite a marvelous refuge for children to follow their bliss as they learn new things at their own pace, in a warm and supportive environment of exploration and creativity. While most public school settings are regimented and formal, with children sitting at their desks and completing tasks assigned by a teacher, Montessori believes that children should be encouraged to develop their own interests. Learning is more of an exploration of one’s curiosity than performing activities because you’re told to. Teachers are guides to a child’s creative process rather than an authority who’s there to punish you if you don’t perform appropriately. The school is actively involved in activities that focus on peace-making and preserving and respecting the earth.
Doesn’t this sound like an incredible experience? Wouldn’t you want this for your child?
For many years Montessori schools were private, and pricey, and only the wealthy could send their children there. But Redwood Coast Montessori is a direct funded public charter school—funded primarily by the State, and authorized by the Arcata School District—and the only public Montessori school in all of Humboldt County—our kids can attend for free!
The other thing about RCM is that it enjoys a great deal of parent participation and support—in fact, parents of RCM’s students are expected to volunteer a certain amount of time to school activities and are thus part of the process. The goals of RCM are completely compatible with the Family Resource Center’s goals of serving our great community through educational workshops for parents, programs for pre-school age children and play groups, teen programs to support leadership building and youth development, and helping our people to get what they need from social service resources. Director Bryan Little is willing and enthusiastic about the prospect of building a vibrant, active, and well-staffed Family Resource Center alongside the framework of the school. He and his fellow dreamers have built RCM from a single classroom in a traditional public school in 2005 into the current free-standing program that now serves 80 children, 15 of them from Manila—next year, 20 Manila children will be enrolled. Considering what Bryan Little has accomplished in this short time, I am very excited to see what the Resource Center will look like under his management. I think we are very fortunate that he is willing to welcome management of the Family Resource Center as a complementary part of this extraordinary school community—something I think will benefit both entities.
At this Thursday’s meeting, we’ll be discussing this new management opportunity for the Family Resource Center. It is bound to be an exciting and informative discussion. Please join us. Help us steer Manila toward a bright new future.