Augusta Media Students Fight to Save Program 

Schools across the state are staring at budget shortfalls. One solution to the problem, is cuts. Augusta’s school board is proposing $600,000 in reductions. Perhaps the most controversial item on the chopping block is a technical program that students, teachers, and community members are speaking out to save.The Capitol Area Technical Center is equipped with one of the most advanced multimedia programs in the state, but money problems are about to make it a class that could lose its credit.Since talk of eliminating digital media began, dozens of letters have been written asking the board to reconsider.The program has been offered at C.A.T.C. for fifteen years. Chris Davis was the first instructor. “These kids have grown up in the internet age, that’s all they know…that’s going to be their future.”In addition to learning about video production, animation, and web design, students run the local cable station, channel 7, airing hundreds of events each year.Some estimates cite savings of more than $150,000 if the course is cut, but Davis says the numbers don’t add up. “It’s not an equipment issue of how much money is going to get lost here or there because there’s funding coming from the franchise to cover all that.”Davis says the school pays $60,000 a year, which includes salaries, but he adds that $95,000 in revenue comes from a city cable franchise agreement that helps pay for and run channel 7.Those wanting to slash the class say kids aren’t signing up. Half-true Davis says. “One course did have low enrollment the other had 90% enrollment, so if you were to eliminate one of the programs I guess we could understand that.”At the same time, some students say it’s what’s keeping them in school. “English is fun and all, but this makes us want to come,” Said student Dustin PartridgeAnd graduates stand by it saying it’s what’s helped them succeed. “Right now I’m a digital media specialist for Mass General in Boston,” Said graduate Andrew Pratt. “I produce, videotape, edit on a professional level, so a lot of stuff I learned here.” TV5 tried to contact Augusta’s superintendent, but calls were not returned.A public hearing on the budget is planned for Wednesday, March 24th, at 7PM in the cafeteria at C.A.T.C.The board’s budget vote will follow.