Service Learning coordinator resigns

Daniel Owens

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[media-credit id=17 align=”alignnone” width=”392″]Service Learning coordinator resigns[/media-credit]

Ron Levesque, the servicing learning program coordinator submitted his resignation after 13 years on Jan. 20.

Service learning program coordinator Ron Levesque resigned after 13 years of service. Citing inconsistent staffing and lack of support from administration, Levesque submitted his resignation on Jan. 20. He has gone back to teaching full time at San Jose City College.

In previous years Levesque has worked under something called split time, 50 percent teaching and 50 percent dedicated to the service learning program. “I was getting worn down, then they reduced my time to 30 percent,” Levesque said.

The service learning program is designed to allow students to work in the community and gain experiences relevant to what they are working on in class. They are usually referred by teachers, sometimes as required assignments, sometimes as an alternative to essays. Upon completion students receive a certificate.

The service learning program advises roughly 500 students under 25 instructors a semester. About 300 students complete the full program.
“There are more students in service learning than play sports,” said Ethnic Studies teacher Khalid White.

“For the last two years all of my classes have been required to do service learning, unfortunately it’s not being offered this semester.”
“The program is in a self-directed mode this semester,” Levesque said.

Teachers can still use the website and get forms but the teachers have to take care of organization and communication with community partners.

The community partner relationship is one of the key aspects of the program.

Community partners are people and organizations within the community where students will serve.

 “The goal is to find partners that understand they are taking a role in the teaching of the student,” said Levesque. “It’s not just that they’re receiving free help but they should be invested in what the students’ goals are, pursuing career goals in that area or what they’re working on class.”

This ensures that the program stays rigorous academically, but requires a great deal of time to work with the many students, teachers and community partners.

The service learning program has other dimensions that Levesque wants to be factored into the budget discussion.

“Programs like this help retain students, some students are bored with class and they want to do something really tangible, really meaningful,” Levesque said. “It can enhance their learning.” He said he believes the service learning program is an important part of our schools community outreach and interaction.

“Our weakest partnership has been with the administration. They haven’t taken ownership of it. We have a great relationship with faculty, students, and community partners,” Levesque said.

With the recent string of rotating and interim presidents, staffing for the program has been inconsistent and finding a home for the program in administration has been difficult, Levesque said.

“Every time I had to deal with new personnel they’ve had to recommit to the program,” he said. “Service learning is hard to pin down. Where does it go? You have to put it somewhere, adopt it and give it a budget.

There has to be a plan, a commitment from administration to support the teachers and students who want this program,” he said.

As soon as Levesque resigned, he said the new president emailed him immediately.

“She said, ‘Wow this seems like a great program, I hate to lose it,’” Levesque said. “She’s very supportive of service learning.”

“The plan is to do the necessary evaluation,” said President Barbara Kavalier. “The best case scenario, I would love to have the program back fall 2011.”

“She asked me if I would come back in the fall, so I told her I would consider reapplying,” Levesque said. “Nothing is guaranteed, so I look forward to working with the new president.”