Thursday, December 19, 2013

How a legendary wizard is assisting Rec&Ed’s budget journey

Guest blogger Sally Sears, Lifelong Learning Coordinator
Sally Searls

Imagine my surprise when Gandalf the Grey, the famous wizard from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings walked into our staff meeting on Tuesday! Soon I noticed that he was on the shorter side, the beard looked a little fake and – wait a second – his robe looked suspiciously like a bathrobe. As soon as “he” started talking I realized it was our Executive Director, Jenna Bacolor.

"Today we will measure progress on our Unexpected Budget Journey,” Gandalf said. Last June, Rec&Ed staff embarked on a Hobbit-like quest for gold. For Rec&Ed, this meant ensuring our financial viability so we can keep serving the community with high quality, affordable recreational and enrichment programs, including scholarships for those in need.

Jenna                                Gandalf
To me, this means improving many of our budgeting procedures so that we can serve the community more effectively.

Using his staff as a pointer, Gandalf led us through a presentation describing the steps our department has completed and how far we have left to go. Since June we have traveled through a forest of budget numbers and a mountain of new purchasing procedures alongside a lake of “transparency” water. We are approaching the swamp of strategic planning and facing the learning curve of using new software. 

My part of this journey has involved joining our new Rec&Ed Budget Team and receiving training on new ways to track our expenditures. This team monitors the current data using "actuals" and envisions the future based on our mission and values as our guide. I am so glad that we are more deliberately connecting our mission and values with our decisions. I believe that Rec&Ed is moving in the right direction for reaching our "gold." 

As I was wondering whether I really wanted to be on this journey (just like Bilbo Baggins!)
Gandalf reminded us that we have weathered changes before. We know from community surveys, as well as our own participant surveys, that the Ann Arbor community wants us to continue providing enrichment and recreational opportunities at an affordable price.

For you, as a Rec&Ed participant, these behind-the-scenes budget improvements will result in our keeping class, camp and other program prices as low as possible. It also means continuing and possibly expanding our scholarship opportunities. 

At the end of the presentation, Gandalf reminded us that organizational changes take: 

“Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure.”  
                                           -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

I think we at Rec&Ed are up for it!

Sally Searls' career with Ann Arbor Public Schools began in 1984 when she worked for Dr. Potts in the Equity Office at Balas. For eight years, she served as Community Education Coordinator at Scarlett Middle School for Scarlett and its feeder elementary schools. In 1992 she became Rec&Ed’s Lifelong Learning Coordinator, overseeing all of Rec&Ed's youth and adult enrichment classes and summer camps. She particularly loves visiting classes and camps to see children enjoying our programs and making friends.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

$10 off any winter class for new and existing A2RecDirect email subscribers!

Update: Friday, Dec. 20 -- all discounts have been taken. Welcome, new A2RecDirect email subscribers!

To say a big thank you to our existing email subscribers and encourage new subscribers, we're offering a special discount on Rec&Ed's winter classes. This discount is available only to email subscribers of this blog.

From December 16, 2013 - January 16, 2014 receive $10.00 off one class in our Winter Catalog. Yes, ANY class! The class can be for you OR your child. 

This winter season, Rec&Ed is offering over 500 useful and fun classes, including 40+ new classes. From fitness and yoga to learning how to use your new iPad/camera/software to cooking delicious entrees and beyond, we have a class that will start your new year off right!

Hurry - this offer is limited to 20 new and current subscribers -- all have been claimed!

Click here to view the Rec&Ed Winter catalog and register on-line. A print copy of the catalog will be mailed to school district residents and placed in community locations in late December.

Here's how to get your discount: 

1. If you're not a subscriber yet, signing up is easy:
  • Enter your email address by clicking here.
  • Look in your email in-box for a message from Feedburner Email Subscriptions. Check your Spam folder if you don't see it within a minute or two.
  • Click on the link in the email.
  • Within a day, you'll receive a "Welcome" email from me.
2. If you're an existing email subscriber: 
  • Simply email me (Jenna Bacolor) at 
  • Subject line: Subscriber discount. I have a list of all subscribers for verification purposes.
3. I'll email you a coupon code 
  • ONLY YOU can use this to register yourself or your child for a class. 
  • Each code is a unique, one-time use code for you to use. 
I'd love to hear from you about what class you pick and why. Send me an email or comment below.

Rec&Ed employees are not eligible for this discount.

Happy Winter Catalog shopping!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New twists on familiar games help Rec&Ed - and you - promote active fun

"Mingle, mingle!" announced Erica Pittman, Rec&Ed School Age Child Care Supervisor at Wines Elementary. The twelve or so kids, grades K - 5, froze in their positions and looked at Erica. 

"Okay. Two...and...hopping!" 

The children quickly formed pairs and hopped in around in a large circle, laughing and shrieking. Upbeat music played in the background. A few minutes later, Erica once again turned down the music and said, "Mingle, mingle!" This time, she instructed the kids to form groups of three and skip.  
Children in Rec&Ed's after school child care
play a more active version of Follow the Leader.
These children, as well as those enrolled in the Rec&Ed after school child care at Abbot, are trying new physical activity games from the best-practice CATCH (Coordinated Action Toward Child Health) curriculum. Rec&Ed child care supervisors use lesson plans from the CATCH After School Club curriculum to lead about 30 minutes of these games. Each game emphasizes different types of fitness and all are designed for having fun while connecting with peers. 

The "Mingle Mingle" game is a new spin on familiar gross motor activities like running, skipping, dancing and hopping. This is an easy game to play with a group of kids in a basement or outside. We've found it works well with K-5 kids. See game directions here.

Do you remember playing "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? 

In our Rec&Ed child care version, children take turns deciding on a type of physical activity and leading their peers in a long line, all of whom are copying their movements. 

Last week at Rec&Ed's after school child care at Abbot Elementary, the leader (an elementary student wearing red in the photo above) started out skipping with swinging arms, then moved to a gliding, ice-skating movement. Her peers followed her in a snake line as she led them around the multi-purpose room. Every child had an opportunity to lead the group, coming up with all sorts of interesting ways to flap their arms, run, walk and skip.

Next time you're looking for a fun birthday party game or need to entertain a group of kids for whatever reason, try these updated versions of familiar activities! Play kid-friendly music and join in yourself.

Rec&Ed is fortunate to have funding from the Michigan Dept of Community Health for the six-week "Fuel Up for Fun" program. Fuel Up for Fun provides staff training in the national best-practice CATCH After School Club to encourage healthy lifestyle habits for a lifetime. See previous posts for other new Rec&Ed programs funded by the MDCH.

Don't miss the latest Rec&Ed news and discounts! Subscribe to A2RecDirect by Email  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

MLive lists A2RecDirect in "Best of Ann Arbor Bloggers" article

Great news for my little ole blog! MLive featured A2RecDirect in a "Best of Ann Arbor Bloggers" article over the weekend. Sure, you have to scroll past several food and political blogs, but I'm so glad that A2RecDirect has been noticed. See article here.

Of course, I (and my fellow bloggers here at Rec&Ed) won't be resting on our laurels. Coming soon: a special discount for A2RecDirect subscribers, a tell-all post from Rec&Ed's first ever Master of Social Work intern, and more.

And please, please share this blog with your friends.

News, behind-the-scenes stuff, discounts and more: Subscribe to A2RecDirect by Email