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MHS college center funds in doubt

BRADENTON — Keep it as it is, says Scott Bassett.

That’s what the Manatee High School Advisory Council chairperson said he plans to ask the school board to do about the school’s College and Career Resource Center during its regular meeting tonight.

Funding for the center started by a three-year grant from the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Foundation has run out at a time when finances are tight in the district.

And today won’t be the first time Bassett has gone before the school board to speak on behalf of the center, which helps students apply to college and find scholarships.

Last month he and a slew of others, including Manatee High students, alumni and parents addressed the board about saving it. Superintendent Tim McGonegal told the group that district officials are looking to cobble together a series of grants to maintain the center and to expand it to other high schools.

But Bassett, in a letter to the board earlier this month, wrote that substituting grants for real budget support or swapping professional staff might not work well.

“Add the CCRC as a line item to the district’s budget and assure that it will continue as it now exists,” Bassett wrote in a letter to the school board. “The students will tell you it could not have been done without the CCRC as it currently exists, not a dramatically altered program restricted by grant requirements or hobbled by a lack of staff specifically trained to this type of work.”

The center, according to Bassett, costs a little less than $100,000 to run and draws in millions in scholarships for MHS seniors.

“This is far more than a numbers game,” Bassett wrote in his letter. “Listen to the stories of the students, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college.”

According to Bassett, 95 percent of the school’s seniors said in a survey that they planned to continue their eduction in college, vocational school or the military.

“We owe our students this type of specialized professional assistance if they are to leverage the excellent education they have received and move on to the next stop in their education,” Bassett said.

Also today, the board is expected to vote on McGonegal’s budget cut recommendations. The superintendent proposed cutting more than $14 million from the district’s operating budget for next school year and that includes slashing positions.

The proposals came after many months of meetings and workshops with the school board and a special committee made up of Manatee residents.

The 30-item plan does not include pay cuts for employees. But the proposal could result in fewer elective teachers in high schools and specials teachers in elementary schools.

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