With loss of position, MARC faces challenges

Funding cutbacks hamper efforts to assist mentally disabled adults

It's been a rough fall for the Milam Association for Retarded Citizens (MARC) Center.

Employee Nina Avrett died unexpectedly on Oct. 15. Avrett, a 22-year public education veteran, was the Adult Basic Education teacher at the center for the past two years and worked well with the mentally disabled adult clients, keeping them busy and challenged with jobs and projects.

Her position was for 15 hours per week, working with MARC's 21 clients.

But funding for the ABE position has been cut by the Region VI Education Service Center, which faces funding challenges of its own. Rockdale ISD is part of the Region VI cooperative.

"The people who have held that position were all very special, very gifted at working with the clients," said Ann King, president of the MARC Center board of directors, said of Avrett and her predecessors. "They worked with them either individually or in small groups, helping them retain or maintain their skills."

"It's very different, very difficult. We miss it a whole lot," Peggy Nadeau, center director, said. "She is missed by the clients.

"We've tried to pick up some other activities. It's not what we like, but it's what we've got," Nadeau said.

The ABE position has been in place since the 1970s, King said.

Rockdale ISD personnel have only just begun to explore replacement of the position, which could prove difficult, given the district's own financial challenges.

Region VI funding Colvin Walker, instructional coordinator for Region VI, said their own funding has become performance-based. Region VI gets federal and state funds, which takes average county wages, jobless rates and the number of disadvantaged students into account.

But ABE testing has also become a benchmark.

"Our goal is that every student show gains," Walker said. "But the fact is that at MHMR centers, such as the MARC Center, there was not any progress being shown."

Brenham State School also recently lost some Region VI funding.

King formerly held the Community Education Director position and said the ABE, as well as General Equivalency Degree (GED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs were all funded through Region VI but supervised by the Community Education.

GED and ESL classes still continue, administered with help from the Central Texas Workforce Center office.

'Run' blessing

For MARC, when one door has closed, another seems to have opened.

South Milam County United Way, which at one time distributed up to $120,000 to 22 dif ferent organizations, has also had to scale back its giving, as Rockdale's Alcoa Operation employees accounted for roughly two-thirds of the charity's income.

In early 2009, thanks to generous proceeds of the MARC Fun Run, a motorcycle rally event, directors opted not to take United Way funding.

"We were so blessed by the motorcycle run's donations, we decided there are so many other deserving agencies," King said.

Still, K ing said she hopes funding can be restored through the district or through another avenue.

"I hope we c an get f unding for that position back," King said. "Because if those MARC clients do not continue to use their skills, they w ill lose them."

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2009-11-19 digital edition

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