REACH Out At Auburn School; Director, Employees Take Pay Cuts

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Cannon County REACH is shutting down its Afterschool Program at Auburn School in Auburntown for the remainder of the school year because of a low number of participants, Director Angela King said Monday.

"I am closing Auburn because there are 3-4 children that attend, I was paying two staff to go there, and it was just not financially a good decision to keep it open," King said.

The program will discontinue at the school as of this Friday, but King is hopeful the program can resume services to students there next Fall.

In addition to closing its Auburn School operation, REACH has also had to make cuts to the salaries paid to both King and its employees to stay within its budget for this fiscal year.

REACH receives all of its money from federal and state grants, and King said funding has been down this year.

"Sometimes cuts have to be made and we're just like everyone else in that the economy has effected us as it has the rest of the non-profits," King said.

King's income is being slashed the most, sustaining a 40 percent reduction, while there has been a 20 percent reduction this month for all other employees.

As director, King oversees a staff of approximately 30 full-time workers and a program which has served an average of 500 students yearly the last 11 years.

The amount of King's income as director is established in the guidelines set forth in each grant REACH receives, and fluctuates yearly. In addition to being the program's director, King also writes its grant requests.

In 2006-2007, King received compensation of $51,713. She received $55,756 in 2007-2008 and $47,627 in 2008-2009.

King's projected salary for 2009-2010 is $44,590 and for 2010-2011 is $31,000.

"I did not think it was fair to cut the salaries of my employees and not cut mine as well," King said.

REACH's annual budget is approximately $350,000, but the total varies from year to year based on the amount of grant money, donations and enrollment fees received.

Since the program began in 1999-2000, it has brought over $3 million into the county and employed approximately 30 staffers per year.

Last Fall the REACH program was cited for several deficiencies in the annual county audit conducted by the state comptroller's office.

"Deficiencies were noted in the administration of the REACH after-school program," the audit states. "The program did not issue receipts for all collections as required by the state statute and did not reconcile receipts issued with attendance records at the program's remote sites. The program does not follow the county's purchasing policies. Employees were paid $24,599 without proper documentation.

"Also, these payments ($24,599) were not channeled through the county's payroll system. Officials did not request reimbursement for grant funds on a timely basis resulting in the General Fund providing a cash flow of $120,999 to the REACH program beyond a reasonable period. Expenditures for the period exceeded funds collected from all sources by $19,995, resulting in the county's General Fund subsidizing the program."

King noted several changes to the program's accounting practices have been made.

"Due to the audit findings REACH has been in the process of making financial and programming changes to better serve the community," King said. "These changes have been possible due to the effort of the REACH staff, County Executive's Office and an independent auditor (free to the program)."

King said a financial handbook has been developed to ensure proper accountability and includes the following:

• Receipting and collections

• Purchasing and purchase orders

• Travel policy in accordance with state/county

• Documentation

• Grant reimbursements requested monthly

The mission of REACH is "to help children in Cannon Coiunty enhance their academic skills to be successful in school and in life through high-qualify after-school tutorial and mentoring programs.

REACH has served 5,150 students since it began, 85 percent of whom met the criteria for at-risk and free-reduced lunch. In May of 2008 eight students graduated from Cannon County High School who were in the REACH program the first couple of years.

REACH has helped increase graduation rates at the high school. In May 2007, 13 REACH students graduated on time. In May 2008, 32 students graduated on time and in May 2009 the number was 34. At the present time there are 64 in the program receiving tutoring and credit recovery.

"Without this program, these students would potentially fail and not graduate," King said.

Compared to the national average, the local afterschool program operates at quite a bargain. The national yearly cost for one child attending an afterschool program is $3772.07. In Cannon County the cost is $475.20 per year. For 300 students the national average os $1,131,620 a year, compared to $142,560 for Cannon County.

It costs 13 percent of the national average to maintain the minimum services at the County County REACH Afterschool Program.

REACH stands for "Reach: Enrichment, Afterschool and Community Health" and operates daily from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the grammar schools and M-F 7-7:40 a.m. and M-Th 2:45-5:45 p.m. at the high school.

"The REACH program provides opportunities for growth and enrichment in children Pre-K through 12th grade," King said. "It enables youth to interact with adults and peers while learning in a safe, supportive environment.

"At REACH, children focus on and learn clear standards for behavior, healthy beliefs, opportunity to contribute to a pro-social peer group as well as skills needed for recreational activities. By developing a sense of self-worth, identifying healthy alternatives and creating bonds, children will be more equipped with skills necessary to create resiliency," King added.

The REACH program offers four main components: Enrichment Activities, Peer Tutoring Program, Mentoring Program and Academic Assistance.

REACH also sponsors or takes part in several community events each year, including the Children's Health Fair which will be held on April 17 this year and Good Ole Days, scheduled for May 14-15.
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