Perham and Frazee are collaborating on a shared Community Education program.
The Perham-Dent and Frazee-Vergas School Boards recently agreed to move forward with the collaboration for at least the next year. They will evaluate the partnership a year from now and then go from there.
Perham-Dent Superintendent Mitch Anderson and Frazee-Vergas Superintendent Terry Karger both describe the collaboration as a "win-win" for their districts and communities. They say sharing costs and resources will allow the Community Ed programs to grow, making it possible to offer more courses to local residents without breaking the budget.
"It takes a lot to keep Community Ed going," said Anderson. "We (area school districts) all struggle with...staffing and finding instructors and financially affording it."
When local school district leaders started talking about their Community Ed programs, Anderson said, "we found we had a lot of the same instructors teaching classes in both (Perham and Frazee)... Budget-wise for both districts it'll be cost-neutral to join forces, and we'll be able to expand our programs."
"I think this is a good opportunity and it benefits both communities," said Karger. "I think it's a good piece for both of our school districts."
Classes will continue to be held in both Perham and Frazee, program names won't change, and the websites will remain largely the same. To the public, it will still seem as though Perham and Frazee each have their own separate Community Ed programs.
But behind-the-scenes, the districts will be working together to plan and fund courses—like adult evening courses in photography, for example, or summertime arts classes for kids—and recruit instructors for those courses.
The two programs will also share a Community Education Coordinator, Kitti Lex, who has already been serving in that capacity for Frazee-Vergas for the past five years.
"Kitti is very creative," said Karger. "She's very strong in getting people in the communities to get out and attend courses. I think using her creativity in blending our communities together and servicing both of them is a win-win."
"Our goal is for users to not notice any difference in what we've offered for the past couple of years," Anderson said. "It's just a difference in who's facilitating it."
The partnership comes on the heels of a staff change in Perham that left the district's Community Ed program without a director. Emily Dreyer, who took over the Perham program two years ago, left this fall to take on a new position. For years prior, Community Ed barely existed in Perham; Dreyer built it back up into a popular program with a multitude of course offerings.
"She's gotten us to where we want to be, to where we were decades ago," said Anderson. "The public response from that has been very positive... Our goal is to sustain what Emily was able to achieve, and to grow it and not see our program go backwards."