So...what happened to West Hartford Continuing Education, aka LifeLearn?

In the Spring of 2019 West Hartford announced that their superb enrichment program, aka LifeLearn, would cease to exist. This program was the best in Connecticut, used as a model in other towns, some of which competed with it for students.

In reality, other towns' programs worked in concert with LifeLearn to jointly offer classes and trips which would not have been possible on their own. It was a true success story, largely due to the vision of Newton Clark (who hired me) and later David Downes to keep the ball rolling. Staff members Ruth Kozlowski and Janet Lambert (and later Gail Turner) run the nuts and bolts of LifeLearn, even posting signs with directions to classes in schools on their way home at night.

West Hartford essentially closed an entire school, perhaps the largest school in the district based on student headcount, with absolutely no input from the community. Aside from a letter to LifeLearn instructors (below), there was no announcement or notice of any kind to the public or even previous students. People learned about it when they didn't find a LifeLearn catalog in their mailbox later that Fall!

There was supposed to be a transition of LifeLearn classes to the town's Leisure Services program. In reality, however, very few classes were selected for continuation under WHLS. LifeLearn's 60-page catalog was reduced to a couple of pages in Leisure Services' brochure.

Two of the most popular offerings during the last 35+ years were Volleyball (at several levels from beginner to advanced) with instructor Ed Adajian and my baking and cooking classes. A few years and a pandemic later, both Ed's and my classes struggled to survive. We went from wait lists and multiple sessions of popular offerings to classes being cancelled. While the pandemic certainly contributed to this devastation, I believe a number of bad decisions and multiple screw-ups put the final nails into the enrichment program's coffin.

Examples which directly impacted me and my students included:

• transition from printed to online brochures challenged many seniors
• 2023 catalog published without requesting input (unilateral decision)
• 2022 catalog showed old 2021 classes by mistake
• registration system blocked students < 18 (no parent+child teams)
• bug in "location filter" prevented Conard classes from being found
• did not consistently follow 3-day student withdrawl policy
(allowed pullout the day before a class—after supplies were purchased)
• killed partnerships with other towns (eliminated many classes & trips)
• poor coordination with schools (instructor & students locked out)
• catalogs not mailed to previous students living outside WH
• catalogs out of sync with school semesters (unlike LifeLearn)

Citing "the amount of issues you are currently having" ... "it seems that maybe we should just part ways after this season."

Yes, that was easier than fixing the problems. Writing to the Mayor only forced the wedge deeper between us. My offer to help rekindle LifeLearn fell on deaf ears.

So, at least for the time being, I've been forced into retirement, something I am not ready for. Hopefully there will be a solution for classes to continue somewhere else in the future.

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