Brown County Schools is working to make sure that every student has a plan after they graduate high school.
One step students can take on that path is through the doors of the Brown County Career Resource Center.
The career resource center is a place adults and teens can go to earn their high school equivalency, get credentials or certificates for a job and further their education beyond high school. Computers are available for the public to use, and staff offer help filling out job applications and signing up for college.
On Dec. 7, the Brown County Schools Board of Trustees approved the center’s budget for 2018.
Revenue and expenses are projected to be about equal: $289,300 coming in, and $285,625 being paid out.
Revenue sources include the 1-cent-per-$100 property tax referendum which voters approved in 2016, service fees, a Brown County Community Foundation endowment and adult education fees from those earning their high school equivalency.
Expenses including paying staff and benefits, and for instructors and programming.
This year, the career resource center received an unexpected bump in revenue due to two referendums being charged instead of one.
In 2016, voters approved adding 8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to the schools’ tax rate for seven years.
The first referendum voters had passed for the resource center and the school district in 2010 was a 1-cent rate which directly funded the Brown County Career Resource Center. It was to last for seven years as well, but the school board said last year that they would end it at six. However, in March, the board learned that that the Department of Local Government Finance was requiring the district to collect on both referendums for property taxes due this year because of the way the ballot questions were worded.
That additional referendum money allowed the resource center to make repairs and upgrades to its building, said Director Dave Bartlett. Those included new carpeting, computers and chairs along with repairing some drainage issues.
“The building is in really good shape right now,” he said.
The budget request which Bartlett made to the school board included a dollar-an-hour raise for administrative assistant Sheila Roccia and a 25-cent raise for other staff members — similar to the raises noncertified staff in the schools received earlier this year. Roccia will retire at the end of 2018, but will work in 2019 to train her replacement, Bartlett said.
Adult education coordinator Sue Dillon is leaving the resource center in July 2018. She will not be replaced. Career education coordinator Kathryn Kabe will handle the adult education students. The new jail education instructor, Tim Allanson, also will help Kabe next year, Bartlett said.
“We’re in good financial shape, and what we want to do is we want to look at how the career resource center can help support these projects or support the schools. … That also serves our interest in what happens when the kids get out of school,” Bartlett said.
“That’s really the part of it, to me, that is very exciting.”
The career resource center is expecting to get around $137,000 from its portion of the referendum in 2018, according to Bartlett’s budget.
About $24,000 of referendum money will be used to supplement Shannon Brunton’s salary and benefits. Brunton is the graduation and career coach who works with a select group of high school students who are at risk of not graduating.
The rest of the career resource center’s referendum money will go into a reserve fund.
“What we’re finding is that some of those kids (whom Brunton works with), not only are they doing better in school, but they’re also coming up here (to the resource center), which exposes to them to the potential post-secondary training and education and beyond that, which is a motivator,” Bartlett said.
“Because for them, if they’re struggling just to make it through high school and they get to the point where they are no longer just constantly on the edge, then they would be great candidates to serve here.”
He said the career resource center has committed to help fund Brunton’s salary all of this year and the next program year until June 2019, when another decision can be made on how to use the referendum money.
Bartlett describes the referendum reserve fund as a way to enable future opportunities for the career resource center and schools to work together. What those will be hasn’t been determined yet.
He said the career resource center has been switching priorities in order to eventually reduce the number of adults who need high school equivalencies. “They’re still going to come here, but rather than trying to get a high school equivalency, they’re going to be working on going into Ivy Tech or taking our electrical program or becoming a (certified nursing assistant),” he said.
WorkOne rents office space from the career resource center. Bartlett said that “very often,” career resource center students are also enrolled with WorkOne. WorkOne is part of the state’s workforce development programs and helps people find jobs and get the training required for them.
Along with the work Brunton is doing directly in a school, Kabe works with Brown County Junior High School to organize programs, like the speakers bureau which happens once a month, and the annual Reality Store which shows students how their grades could affect their future earning potential.
Making those connections with speakers from different industries also helps the schools to “bridge that gap” between high school and “some type of post-secondary training and employment,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett said the career resource center is also more involved with businesses and linking educational training into employment than in the past.
“We are not a job placement organization; however, it makes us more valuable if we’re helping the people who are taking the courses to get employment. That makes us valuable to the businesses,” Bartlett said.
For example, the career resource center offers a nine-week CNA class, where classwork is done at the resource center and the clinical phase is completed at Brown County Health & Living. If students pass the test, they can be offered jobs with Brown County Health & Living.
The resource center also offers electrical classes, American Sign Language classes, small business consulting, WorkOne skill enhancement workshops and individual computer lessons.
The resource center also partners with Ivy Tech in Bloomington to offer English Composition 111, Math 123, Interpersonal Communication 102 and Psychology 101.
“They (Ivy Tech) really are interested in serving kids out of high school. Now, they want to serve the returning adults as well, but because of employment, that pool is much thinner,” Bartlett said.
The high school also provides the resource center with a list of students who graduate mid-term in December.
“What we’ve done is we are targeting these students to make them aware they can actually enroll in Ivy Tech and take classes right here,” Bartlett said.
When people enroll in Ivy Tech through the resource center, they will have assistance along every step. “It’s a bit of a process, especially for students whose parents are not familiar,” Bartlett said.
“They are going to be more likely to be successful if someone can just guide them through the process.”
Brown County Career Resource Center Director Dave Bartlett said the center is on “solid ground” financially.
Projected revenue for 2017 was almost $22,000 less than what is projected for 2018. Bartlett said the projections are more realistic and are based on what the resource center has earned in the past from college classes, adult education and service fees.
A drop in the payout from the resource center’s endowment also contributed to the decrease.
For 2018, the resource center is projected to bring in $30,000 in service fees, compared to $36,000 that was projected in 2017.
In 2017, adult education was projected to bring in $52,400. For 2018, that projection is $44,500. Bartlett said the decrease is largely based on changes to the state funding formula.
Previously, the formula was based on performance, which includes how many people get their high school equivalencies, how many level gains a person gets and whether or not they get and retain employment, Bartlett said. Now, the formula is based on employment rates, the number of people who need high school equivalences and other factors.
“Those are demographics beyond our control,” Bartlett said.
“That actually determines how much the combined regions get, but then that has to get divided up. We’re a sub-grantee. It’s a combined effect of all of it. We have to take whatever that portion of pie is and divide that up among our programs.”
Bartlett said the resource center received more funding when it the formula was performance-based.
As of October, the resource center had a $281,000 cash balance. “That number will go up quite a bit at the end of the year because it will be the last double (referendum) payment,” Bartlett said.