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YSU to lay off SMARTS personnel



Published: Mon, November 4, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

University lays off SMARTS director, part-time assistant

By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State University’s Students Motivated by the Arts program celebrated its 15th anniversary earlier this year, but because of the university’s tight finances, the program’s future looks doubtful.

Among the handful of people to be laid off as part of university budget cuts are the program’s director and its part-time administrative assistant, whose annual salaries are $71,249 and $18,054, respectively.

“Unfortunately, in this difficult financial times and after extensive review by the College of Creative Arts and Communication as well as the rest of the administration, it was determined” to cut the positions, said Ron Cole, YSU spokesman.

The community arts school offers free arts-education programming to students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Program personnel have said thousands of Valley students have been through the program since it started.

Nicole Hagerty, a teacher of students with multiple disabilities at Robinwood Elementary School in Boardman, thinks the cuts are unfair to the students who benefited from SMARTS. Students in her classes participated in a SMARTS drum-circle program.

“My own students for the past three years have learned so much through the drum circles, and students who have a hard time learning have been able to participate through the drums,” she said in an email. “It is shameful that the students will lose this program due to budget cuts. The YSU students who have worked so hard to develop a strong program to teach the students have learned so much from them as well through the program.”

Hagerty added that Becky Keck, director, and Leslie Cusano, administrative assistant, “have impacted the special-needs community in a way that many have been unable to. ... Until you see it with your own eyes how amazing it is for the students, it is hard to believe such a program can have such an impact on students.”

Keck couldn’t be reached to comment.

The university and the college hope to maintain most if not all of the programming through this academic year, Cole said.

“Beyond that, we’re in the process of assessing a variety of approaches for outreach in the community,” he said.

President Randy J. Dunn said that as the university deals with a $6.5 million deficit, it must focus on his core mission. Like any business or government, the university must change to continue to move forward, he said.

A loss of state funding as well as enrollment that has fallen for the last three years contributed to the deficit.

“This has been an unfortunate turn of events financially for not only universities across the country but for YSU,” said Bryan DePoy, dean of YSU’s College of Creative Arts and Communication.

But with the loss of revenue over the last few years, the university had to make cuts to not impact the academic core, he said.

“Right now what we’re working on is a transition plan,” DePoy said. “We’re working with community partners that we hope will adopt some aspects of the SMARTS program.”

The dean said a lot of things have to be taken into consideration, one of which is programs will have to go where adequate facilities are available.

“We have some students who do assist with SMARTS, and we want to assure that connectivity to our students and our faculty,” he said. “We’re hoping whatever model emerges from this change, we’ll still serve as a resource.”

YSU has a relationship with Chaney’s Visual and Performing Arts program that will continue, Cole said. The university also reaches youths in the community via a community theater program through the Jewish Community Center that started last summer, the Scholastic Art Awards given each spring and other programs, he said.

Other programs to bring arts and culture to young people are being explored, he said.

This year, SMARTS also moved from downtown Youngstown to the basement of Tod Hall on campus because of the high lease cost. That space, though, wasn’t able to meet the program’s needs.

While much of the program is grant-funded, the salaries are paid from the general fund, Cole said.


Comments

1valleypolitics(88 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This is one of the few non-profit programs that actually works in Youngstown and the new president decides to cut it and lay-off two of our friends.

Well Mr. President when you start your tenure by trying to show how tough you are by going after the kids in this community, that need the most help, you have started off on the wrong foot.

So we are going to give President Randy J. Dunce a real Youngstown welcome and dig into his past and see what we can find.

Welcome to the community!

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2Old_School(39 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This should only be the start of the lay-off's. Do you all realize that their are plenty of professors at YSU making 130k per year plus benefits!! They can't be laid off because they are in the union! Start to lay off professors and make the other ones teach more than 2 classes a day! It is a joke how much these people make per hour. Know any names?
www.buckeyeinsitute.org will give you all of their salaries.

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3ValleyVolunteer(2 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

"While much of the program is grant-funded, the salaries are paid from the general fund, Cole said."
How about almost two-thirds is grant funded, which makes this a community asset and not the university's. The community should decide what's to become of SMARTS. Or at least the funders; the people who put up a majority of the money in the first place.
Helping our children from low income families to learn about the arts does more for the community than any amount of 'academic core' will do.
We need to find a way to make certain that SMARTS can continue its mission in our valley, with or without the university.
I believe this was a very short-sighted decision.

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4Rooster(78 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess they're trying to figure out how to pay that new attendance expert they just hired. I heard he wasn't planning to move house to Youngstown and will commute weekends back home to Bowling Green. Doesn't seem like a real confident start.

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5petemoss90210(10 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I know that when grants are provided to the University to house a grant funded program, there is a contract established that is renewed annually, and most likely guaranteed for X years before it is renewed again. In these contracts, the University is permitted to terminate the grant funded programs at any time and the funding agency is also permitted to terminate the program at any time. All that would be needed is a written notice 2 weeks in advance, and legally, there is no issue. The problem with this story are the human resources that are going to be lost, and Becky and her assistant are amazing people, so it is a sad loss! If they were paid through the grant funding, there would be no issue with their program as the University could not lay them off since they would be Exempt from bargaining units and solely funded through soft money which would not benefit the University to cut a program like that since there is only a very small amount of general funds used to house the grant funded employees. So, if indeed 2/3 of the program is funded through grants, those grants can go to a different individual or department on campus to fulfill the community aspect of the SMARTS program. The YSU students will still be connected with the children in the community, and the program will still be just as strong. Now, if the grant funding agencies want to use their grant funding to pay for the Director and the Assistant, then that is an option, and they can still be housed at YSU. The only drawback is that the operating budget may be eaten up by administrative costs. Whatever that 2/3 is, subtract their salaries + 34% fringes, which totals $119,666, and see what is left for the program to survive on just grant funding alone.

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