Amy Rasner Clulow Interview:
This is file # 35, cycle 2. Today’s date is August 1, 2016. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Amy Rasner Clulow on SOAR. One of the first questions I shall ask her is what the initials stand for? But first we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
AC:My name is Amy Rasner Clulow.
JM:What is your birthdate?
AC:July 25, 1969.
JM:Your parents’ names?
AC:Robert Rasner and Barbara Hess
AC:I do; One older brother Robert, an older sister Susan, another older sister Laura, and then another older brother Gregory. I am the youngest.
JM:Educational background after high school?
AC:I attended the University at California at San Diego at La Jolla.
JM:How did you come to the area?
AC:We purchased a home in Lakeville in 2009. No, I think it was 2007. Then we came to the area full time in 2009.
JM:What does SOAR stand for?
AC:Seek, Originate, Aim, Reach
JM:When did Soar actually begin?
AC:Well, we celebrated 15 years last fall so we are about to turn 16.
JM:So it would be about 2001?
JM:Whose idea was it?
AC:The idea to begin with in SOAR was Zenas Block.
JM:How was this operation funded originally?
AC:Originally Zenas recruited a hand full of private donors to feed money for SOAR. He was the primary contributor and solicited participation from other key contributors to partner with Salisbury Central School.
JM:Who was the principal when SOAR started?
JM:I think you said that some of the aims were to develop different learning styles and make it affordable for most people?
AC:Sure it is my understanding that Zenas really wanted there to be some programming that allowed the local public school to extend learning, and have a rich learning experience beyond the traditional or typical classroom experience s for students. He wanted them to explore other areas of interest beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.
JM:Do you have a board? (Amy is an ex-board member having just completed 6 years. Ed.)
AC:We do have a board.
JM:How many are on the board?
AC:Generally 10 to 12 sit on the board.
JM:Is it a mixture of faculty, community, educators or how is it mixed?
AC: The composition of the board is something that we pay a great deal of close attention to as we have developed the organization. We are eager to have a balance of current families who are part of the Salisbury Central School community, current teachers and administration from Salisbury Central where possible, as well as members of the extended community. In addition we try to pay attention to competencies and experiences of our board members. It is important for us to have members of the board who are specifically skilled in the areas of science, operations, legal, fund raising and development, board development and recruitment. We have an eye on a number of different things.
JM:So that you have experts in various fields.
JM:Well planned. Do you have a term of office?
AC:Yes board members serve in 3 year increments and are welcome to serve 2 consecutive terms.
JM:Who develops the programs themselves?
AC:Our Program Director, currently Louise Fallon, works with a committee called a Program Committee. Another group of volunteers of current families, current teachers, and administration from SCS and other members of the community make up this sub-committee. Together they work to develop consistence and continuous programing. This programing maintains some consistence year to year which builds on previous programing and most importantly sparks the interests of students of SCS.
JM:How do you fund this project?
AC:SOAR continues to be privately funded. We don’t receive grants from the town or the state. We undertake a number of efforts to secure funding. We a mail appeal twice per year and in addition we partnered very successfully in the recent few years with other local organizations to do other fund raisings. We sold lemonade at the most recent Trade Secrets event. We have partnered with SWSA, Noble Horizons and other local organizations. We have done concessions at Hotchkiss Theatre productions. We have done a number of these smaller undertakings to yield funds from the local community.
JM:Was Berkshire Taconic Involved at all?
AC: Yes, when Zenas founded SOAR, it was a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and we enjoyed a very successful relationship there for many years. It was not until a couple of years ago that we undertook filing for independence from Berkshire Taconic. We had really grown into our own small organization and it seemed time for us to establish our own 501c3. We did that a couple of seasons ago.
JM:How much money generally do you have to have to run this program?
AC:That is a great question for Louise to really track that.
JM:Then I shall ask her that one!
AC:We continue to have an endowment fund with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; we drew a portion of those funds down each year. We maintain our operating fund which typically is 2 to 3 times our annual operating budget so that we are sure to have sufficient funds for programing.
JM:Who is eligible to attend these programs?
AC:SOAR’s programs are after school programs that run in the fall, some in the winter and spring. That is the hallmark of the program. After school programs can be attended by any student at SCS 1-8th grade. We agreed early on and continue to revisit this notion that pre k and k have a very full day in the school day. Our programs are not a productive use of time for youngest students. In addition to
After school programing SOAR provides funding for all school assemblies that hit all students at SCS, as well as grants by grade level. For example a few seasons ago the sixth graders are reading ”Treasure Island” and the National Theatre was doing an simulcast in Millerton at the Movie House of ‘Treasure Island”. The teacher applied for a SOAR grant of funds for the 6th grade to see the National Theatre’s production of “Treasure Island”.
JM:What a wonderful opportunity. Do you charge a fee for the classes?
AC:We do. One of the things that Zenas was really adamant about early on was that this needed to be affordable and accessible undertaking for families of SCS. The cost of the enrichment programing in the area can be very prohibitive for families which keep students from pursuing their interests. When he started the organization, he decided he would charge a nominal fee of $15. Generally it can range up to about $25 $15-$25 for a workshop. At times there are materials fees, if it is a materials intensive undertaking. There are generally a couple of workshops that run free of charge each season. Additionally students who are in the extended day afterschool programming (EXTRAS) which is child care for student of all ages at SCS. They do pay a fee for that so we relieve their SOAR fees if they would like to do both. Lastly families are certainly welcome to ask for additional financial support; we don’t want to turn students away for inability to pay the fee.
JM:If a family has 3 children in the program, do you do a family discount or is each child $15 regardless?
AC:Some students take 3 or 4 classes per season; therefore they are paying a fee per class. We do not have a specific discount, but again there is a financial aid application; it is simply a matter of saying to our program director, “Hey we can use a hand with fees this term.” They can have a discussion with her to see what type of relief might be helpful.
JM:In these workshops what is the maximum number of students?
AC:It really depends on the workshop. A few seasons ago I taught a knitting class, it helped me to not only connect with the kids and help them with something that they wanted to learn about, but it also allowed me to really understand how the program works. To start I was asked how many students would be appropriate for my session; how long the session should be; how frequently we should meet; and what kind of materials we would need to provide. Through that we decided that the two of us who were teaching the class would max out at 12 students our first term. We found out and partnered up with Hammertown to provide all the materials for the class; there was no materials fee for students. As is often the case as teachers, we decided to pass our teacher wages to SOAR. A lot of our instructors do that. Some enjoy the income and others when they can go ahead and volunteer their time to teach.
Our second term of teaching knitting we were able to say we will up the number of students that we are teaching, but we need a certain number of returners so that we can have beginners and returners partnered up to get the best for both. That is a discussion at the start of class, but I would say that most
classes are a max or 10 to 15 at the top. Lastly I would add to that that a couple of seasons ago there were a number of younger sections that were running; students who enjoyed those sessions had aged out so we asked them if they might rejoin those sessions. Janet Kauffman’s “Fun Fitness” comes to mind where we had the middle schoolers who had been in every session of that class. We asked them to come back as teacher’s assistants. Thus we were able to accommodate a larger number of young students because we had a couple of school helpers who knew the program well.
JM:That makes a great deal of difference because you have people that have experience in the program to help those who may have difficulty.
AC:They have had experience with the program and then they had gone through a partner with the Red Cross for babysitting certification. They had been students in “Fun Fitness”, they were certified babysitters, and could come back with the experience and the skills to be helpful for the younger students.
JM:You have mentioned organizations that you have partnered with including the Red Cross, Noble Horizons, Women’s Support Services, Hotchkiss, SWSA and the Congregational Church. Have I left anybody out?
AC:Wow, you should really ask Louise because I feel we might have left someone out. Those were the ones that come to mind.
JM:That’s fine; I shall ask Louise. What are your time slots? When do you start? When do you end? Or is it flexible, depending upon the workshop?
AC:It depends on the workshops and it depends on the terms. Some workshops run 4 sessions and some run 12 sessions. Some run longer. We typically have a season that starts up late September or Early October and runs through the end of October to mid -November. They are usually wrapped up before the Thanksgiving break. We partner with Hotchkiss Farm. (Used to be Fairfield Farms, Jack & Jeanne Blum on Rt. 41 ED.) They pick up a group of students, head out to the farm to partner up with their after school farming program. The Hotchkiss students provide the mentorship and SCS students are learning about the farm and the operations there. That happens once a week for 6 sessions. The theatre program that has been directed by Michael Berkley this past season and to my understanding will happen again, meets a bit more frequently over a longer period of time. They will put together a production that will be staged in November.
JM:But do you start after school ends for the most part?
AC:School ends shortly after 3:00 and the workshops get underway right after that. All students go to the cafeteria; we take attendance and make certain that we have all the students that we are expecting, and any students who are absent. We are doing all the housekeeping tasks before we disperse student to their classrooms.
JM:When do they end?6.
AC:Some classes end at 4:30 and some stay as late as 5:30. You can imagine the younger sessions are a bit shorter and the theatre sessions last a little bit longer.
JM:Would you name a couple of course that have been utilized in the past?
AC:We have had the “Mile run Club” for SCS students. The older students are required to run a timed mile in October. Some students are super excited about that and others are a little less excited. It doubly prepares for part of the P.E. curriculum, but we launched the “Mile Run club” a couple of years ago to try and build some enthusiasm and momentum around that experience of a timed mile. That one has been pretty successful. Janet Kauffman has run ”Fun fitness” as well as taught a couple of cooking classes. We have had “Bridge Engineering”. Jonathan Doster runs season after season a very successful chess program. He has also been a great partner for the 2nd grade grant. He is teaching “Perspective Photograph”, nature photography. Michael Berkley in theater- The Hotchkiss School has done great things with the farm program. Robotics has been on the docket several seasons. Fencing we partnered up with the Congregational Church to allow for a larger open space for launching the fencing program.
JM:That is a good range. Do all of these courses take place at Salisbury Central or like the fencing it goes to the Congregational Church?
AC:Most of our workshops take place at Salisbury Central. Some from a needs standpoint we have needed to switch to other locations or a different time of day. We have paired very successfully with the Congregational Church. We have had really generous offers from other locations around town to host our students if that is necessary for space purposes. We have put our toes in the water for doing some programing on vacation days, but that would be in the future and a really nice opportunity to partner with other locations in town where you are doing something that can’t necessarily be accomplished in an hour and one half after school and might need a couple of hours.
JM:What are some other possibilities that you are toying with in the future?
AC:There has been a request for a “Duct Tape Art”. There have been some very successful art classes over the years for the young kids and for some of the older kids. At 2 different times we have undertaken a large mural; I imagine it is about time to undertake that again. There has been a great response to puppet making, felting and knitting is always a favorite. Then in and out of the curriculum for math we have had different math programs which are a little bit different from the school day. A lot of the things that I think we shall enjoy exploring over the coming seasons is partnering with SCS to utilize the Maker Space. SCS is putting in a Makers’ Space. We intend to build some programs around that space.
JM:What is a Maker’s Space?
AC:A Maker’s space, think of a tinkering spot, as what used to happen when you and I were kids and we would go into our dad’s or grandad’s workshop downstairs in the basement. There were all sorts of things in disrepair, half repaired, some taken apart, some of them not as successfully
reassembled. It is an opportunity for students to experiment with how things are made. This is tactile learning. I am not doing it justice.
JM:I get the drift.
AC:It is everything from let’s take apart an old DVD player to understand how it works to different sewing projects and things of that nature.
JM:Good variety. What haven’t I asked you that I should?
AC:I think you have covered it. I think it would be smart to talk to current members of the board as I just rotated off after six years. I will continue to be involved with the organization. We spent 4 or 5 years building the board we are now in a place of a full board which is ready to move into the next chapter. Keith Marks is heading that effort. Louise Fallon whom we have talked about would be a great connection.
JM:Thank you so much for your information.
AC:You are very welcome.