Tag Archive | "youth advocacy resource development"

Funding Youth 6/7/12

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It’s hard to argue against what the Youth Advocacy Resource Development (YARD) program has meant for this community and its students. From administering after school supervision at Pierson to developing summer beach activities for teens (all at no cost to parents), those who run the YARD program have a dedication to the youth of Sag Harbor unparalleled by most.

And yet the future of the summer beach program is now uncertain.

Historically, YARD has been issued an insurance waiver from the Sag Harbor School District, allowing the YARD summer beach program to spend only $200 on the required insurance, versus the $4,000 to $7,000 it would have to spend if it were a private entity.

This is a considerable difference, especially for a non-profit organization with a relatively small annual budget to begin with.

However, the YARD program had been using the district’s insurance without actually being adopted as a district program.

Ok, you say, the solution’s really simple: the board of education approves the YARD summer beach program, issues an insurance waiver and then teens throughout the Sag Harbor area can continue to avoid trouble by congregating on Long Beach three nights out of the week in the summer.

Unfortunately, it’s not that cut and dry.

For the district to take on a recreational program like YARD’s, it isn’t enough to issue a waiver and allow the program to carry on. The school functions under specific state rules which require all programs to not only be overseen by a teacher or, in this case, the YARD director, but by a district administrator. In other words, if YARD becomes a district program it, too, must abide by the state’s regulations.

In many ways, we’d like to see the district take a stronger, more supportive role in the YARD program. It not only gives working parents a safe place to send their kids after school and provides a haven in the community for otherwise at-risk teens, most importantly it serves a function that helps the school district itself by keeping students out of trouble.

But running the program through the school district would come with problems of its own. Providing district supervision would not only make more work for school administrators (we can already detect the faint smell of labor negotiations that would be sparked by such a prospect), but it would most likely involve costs (we can’t imagine anyone working for free, especially in the summer).

So, where does this leave YARD?

Of course the program could latch onto another entity and obtain an insurance waiver outside the district. It’s certainly possible. But, as long as the program is beholden to a parent organization, it loses its autonomy.

The YARD program has been so successful in its 13-year history, we feel the best way to ensure it maintains the programs and the oversight it’s been able to provide all these years is for it to function as its own governing body. For this, it needs to be able to provide its own insurance.

It’s not the most desirable option, we know. But it seems the most viable for all parties.

Already, the YARD program receives roughly $80,000 in funding from government municipalities, including the Sag Harbor School District. By working hard in this next year to raise an additional $4,000 to $7,000, the YARD program will be able to make certain its summer beach program remains intact and untouched.

As for this year, we sincerely hope the district and the YARD board are able to come to some agreement for the immediate future.

But come next year, should the district maintain the position it took this time last year (that it would not administer the YARD summer beach program), we hope the district makes it’s stance very clear. And we hope YARD works accordingly in the months ahead to prepare itself for summers to come.

Board Questions Operation of YARD Summer Beach Program

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By Claire Walla

The future of the Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD) summer beach program is in flux. Again. And the Sag Harbor Board of Education remains at a standstill.

Last year around this time, school board members discussed the feasibility of continuing to run the summer beach program at Long Beach in Sag Harbor. The question was not the viability of the program — board members agreed it served an important function for the community, catering to 60 to 80 kids a night — but rather the manner in which it operated.

Issues first arose a few years ago when auditors discovered that while YARD had long operated autonomously from the district — running programs without formal approval from the school board — its finances had in fact been funneled through the district.

This was mitigated last year when the YARD board formed a non-profit entity, “Friends of YARD,” to collect all funds solicited for the program.

However, Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. Gratto pointed out that last year the school board decided not to be involved in the summer beach program after summer 2011, leaving the organization to find another entity to oversee its operations going forward.

YARD has been in discussions with Southampton Town, which is a big proponent of the summer beach program. However, according to Russel Kratoville, Southampton Town Management Services Administrator, while the town will continue to fund the program with its annual contribution of $15,000, it does not have the means run the program. (This would require hiring additional staff.)

Now, as discussed at a school board meeting last Monday, June 4, the board faces many of the same problems it faced last year.

The nut of the issue comes down to a simple philosophical question, Dr. Gratto said: should the district be responsible for administering a summer program?

If the district decided to formally take on the program, one necessary course of action would be to assign district supervision, which Mary Anne Miller, school board president, said is necessary for any district program. Not only might this involve extra costs, she went on, but it would add more to administrators’ summer schedules.

“I don’t think our administrators are looking for more work,” board member Walter Wilcoxen added. If the district was responsible for the program, he continued, “There are many costs in the YARD function we may end up paying for.”

Currently, the school contributes $10,000 annually to YARD.

The total cost of YARD services, including both the summer beach program and the afterschool program during the school year, is about $80,000, according to school board member and YARD Board of Directors member Sandi Kruel. And $23,000 of that goes to the summer beach program.

Kruel went on to explain that the vast majority of funding for the program comes not from the school district, but from different municipalities: New York State, Suffolk County, Southampton Town, Sag Harbor and even North Haven Village.

She said cost isn’t an issue.

“We haven’t been short on money in 13 years [since YARD was founded],” a noticeably frustrated Kruel stated. “I don’t foresee us coming up short this year.”

For the school to run a program that incorporates donations from several different municipalities, however, Dr. Gratto explained the district would need each entity to sign what’s called a Municipal Cooperative Agreement. He is currently figuring out how long that agreement — requiring signatures from the village, town, county and state — would take to get finalized.

Board members Miller and Wilcoxen additionally expressed concern that they still had not seen contracts from any entity other than Southampton Town, and would not be confident with YARD’s funding going forward until they could be certain these funding streams were officially designated for the year.

Kruel said she would like for the summer program to begin the week after graduation.

But whether it will have untangled all these details before then remains to be seen.