Board moves forward with adult education program – Discuss safe routes to school, cross-country team

The Ennis School Board has taken a first big step in the process of revamping its adult education program.

Last Wednesday the board voted to hire two people to spearhead the new adult education program.

Jon Goodman from Ennis and Toni Fanning from Alder will head up the program for the Ennis School District. The two have already begun working with a community advisory group and Ennis superintendent Doug Walsh on developing the framework for a program that would provide continuing education for people in Madison County.

Goodman is a financial advisor with Yellowstone Wealth Management in Ennis. Fanning is a former teacher. The two see the revamping of Ennis’ adult education program as a chance to provide real opportunities for people to learn skills to both enhance their lives and re-educate themselves to compete in an ever-changing job environment.

The big chore moving forward will be gathering public input and setting out a course schedule for classes early next year, Goodman told the board.

Goodman’s passion for continuing education started with the Horizons process the community of Ennis started about three years ago. The Horizons program was an effort sponsored in part by Montana State University to help communities look at their needs.

Through the Horizons process a group was formed to look at continuing education in Ennis, Goodman said. This group didn’t get much further than just the initial discussion.

However, at a business forum last May sponsored by the Ennis, Virginia City and Greater Ruby Valley Chambers of Commerce, the topic came up again. The idea being that continuing education could be an economic asset to the county.

Goodman began meeting with a group of community members to discuss what a continuing education program would look like. At the same time, the Ennis School District began moving forward with developing a more expansive adult education program, he said.

The community group that formed after last spring’s business forum developed a general schematic for what they would like to see in a continuing education program, said Sara Johnson, a member of the group and local businesswoman.

The idea would be to have a program that was based at the school, but intimately connected with the community members and businesses around the county so that classes and courses would continue to be relevant to both people’s lives and their career aspirations, Johnson said.

The community group would be willing to partner with the school district and help Goodman and Fanning collect community input and serve in an advisory role for the program, she said.

“It made the best sense to start a partnership with the school,” Johnson said.

Goodman and Fanning’s plan for the program has spun off of the schematic Johnson presented to the board at the meeting. It provides different general categories for classes along with review criteria for teachers and curriculum.

The next steps in developing the program will be to build a website, settle on a name and logo and look at marketing strategies, Goodman said. The pair will also begin working with the community advisory group to develop a survey to solicit more public input.

The goal is to have some classes lined up by the end of January, he said.

“We want this to be a very quality program,” Goodman said.

Fanning agreed.

“Ennis is going to stand out as a community with a one-of-a-kind program,” she said.

At the meeting Walsh voiced his support for Goodman and Fanning’s plan and the new direction of the program. It was what he had hoped would come out of a revamped adult education program.

“As I see it, this is the best design we could come up with,” he told the board. “This was exactly what we wanted done with this new facility.”

Also at the school board meeting, Madison Byways presented their progress on their Safe Routes to School grant.

Last year the group, which is a trails group based in Ennis, received a $20,000 Safe Routes to School grant to help develop and promote school kids around Ennis getting to and from school safely, said Shauna Laszlo, a spokeswoman for the group.

With the grant, the group has put on bicycle safety classes; a five-kilometer run called the Mustang Stampede and hired a consultant to help them form a Safe Routes to School plan, Laszlo said.

Of particular interest to the Madison Byways Safe Routes to School consultant is working with the school district as the new school buildings are completed and walking and driving routes around the campus change, said Josh Vujovich, who is the president of Madison Byways.

Any routes connecting the community to the school need to fit within the district’s plans at the new school, he said.

Both Walsh and elementary and junior high principle Brian Hilton sit on Madison Byway’s Safe Routes to School community advisory committee.

The school board also took up discussion of coach reviews at the meeting. All the coaches from the fall sports received favorable reviews, said Ennis Athletic Director Paul Bills.

The board was concerned the cross-country team ended the season with only four athletes. To be a full cross-country team, according to the Montana High School Association, there must be three boy and three girl competitors, Bills said.

The board discussed whether or not to keep the program.

Board member Brett Owens was in favor of keeping it going despite the lack of participation this year. He pointed out that last year they only had one runner, his son Gavin, who won the state championship.

The board had decided to fund the program this fall, after first deciding to cut it last spring.

Bills expressed interest in keeping the program going because they did have some interest this past year and at one point had seven runners. All the runners who finished the season with the team were underclassmen and would likely run again next year, he said.

The board decided to push a decision on whether or not to keep cross-country until January’s meeting.

The board also received an update on the new school construction, which is on schedule, Walsh said.

Walsh also had the contractor put together a report about how much money has been spent locally thus far during the construction.

According to the report, nearly $550,000 has been spent in local business on a variety of things from construction material to food, he said.

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