The Ladies Speak Truth to Power About the Senior Center

Black’s Guest Opinion follows their response.  You can read from the bottom up.

Dear Editor:

In response to Michael Black’s guest opinion of 12/22, he does anything but “set the record straight.”  Since he has misrepresented our actions, we– as the former temp/part-time staff of the Senior Center– feel it is our duty to tell the facts as they actually occurred.

Mr. Black states: “On Aug. 30, the part-time employees notified the Human Resources Department they were quitting. The next day, with no notice to me, the four part-time employees turned in their written resignations and walked off the job.”

This is false.  On Aug 30, 2017 our letter of resignation was turned in, at City Hall, by our program director, Christine Dodson.  We had handed our letter directly to her, and she accepted it on our behalf.  If Mr. Black’s own department failed to inform him that the entire staff had just resigned in protest of his actions, then perhaps he should take that up with those at City Hall or Parks.  For him to state otherwise in a public forum like the Tidings is irresponsible.

Interestingly also on Aug 30, at the same  time our letter was being hand-delivered. Mr. Black appeared at the Senior Center telling the staff member on duty that she was no longer needed, collecting her keys, and escorting her out the door.

He states, “I did not fire anyone at the Senior Center. There were plans to ask a few of those who quit to stick around during the transition — I even extended this offer to one of those employees who said she would get back to me and never did.”

In Mr. Black’s own “Lay Off Notice” dated Aug 23, 2017, which he sent to Christine Dodson, he stated, “To accomplish transition to a new senior program, lay off current staff (1.7 FTE) and temporarily reassign duties among other Parks employees to maintain core services.”  Further, he writes, “All paid Program staff will be laid off effective October 1, 2017 in order to accomplish the action of reorganization.”  (emphasis added)

So, while he didn’t “fire” the staff, his clear, written intention was to lay off the entire staff of the Senior Program.  Of course, he might have preferred if we had stuck around to help him dismantle this program until his arbitrarily selected date of Oct 1., but what reasonable person would wish to do that?  We wanted no part of his so-called “recommendations” which essentially gutted this 43 year old program, and the institutional memory and expertise of same, and the working environment created by his actions with such a guillotine hanging over our heads was untenable.

Mr. Black’s statement that he was waiting to hear back from a staff member is not true.  Our letter of resignation states that we resigned en masse in support of our program director Ms. Dodson, whom Mr. Black summarily permanently laid off while she was on family and sick leave.  We felt that his “recommendations” were in opposition to the Mission Statement of the Senior Program and we did not intend to be used during his “reorganization” period and then be canned by him on Oct. 1.

Mr. Black and the APRC Commissioners (three of whom are now part of a Recall effort) have made a mess of what was previously a robust and compassionate program serving all seniors, including lower income.

We are very proud of our work on behalf of the Senior Program and it has been an honor to work and serve in this wonderful community.  We will not stand by and let Mr. Black distort our actions or our motivations.  We will continue to speak the truth.

Sincerely,

Dorothy Parsons, Loretta Wright, Darlene Templeton, Susanne Severeid

Black’s Column

Setting the record straight on Ashland Senior Center

By Michael A. Black

I appreciate the fair approach that the Daily Tidings has taken with our senior program reorganization. I am writing this email in response to a letter to the editor in the Dec. 14 paper. I know none of us can control what people say or how they feel, but I have read and reread the same incorrect information too many times.

I get it that this is a tough time for everyone, but it’s tougher because the public has been led to believe that their elected and appointed officials don’t care about seniors. This is simply not true. The Senior Center never closed, not even for a day. We have had qualified people in the center throughout the program review and reorganization. We are now partnering with Rogue Valley Council of Governments to have their senior services in our center every Wednesday.

It’s noteworthy that one professional member of the interim Senior Center staff decided not to continue after being subjected to multiple personal affronts from persons protesting the Parks and Recreation Commission’s efforts to revamp and enhance the senior program.

Until Aug. 31, the Senior Center staff consisted of 1.7 full-time positions: a manager and four part time employees. On Aug. 30, the part-time employees notified the Human Resources Department they were quitting. The next day, with no notice to me, the four part-time employees turned in their written resignations and walked off the job. I did not fire anyone at the Senior Center. There were plans to ask a few of those who quit to stick around during the transition — I even extended this offer to one of those employees who said she would get back to me and never did.

The Senior Center manager’s position was eliminated in recognition that the significant changes to be made at the Senior Center would require a substantially revised position description and skill set. Once the Ashland Senior Program Advisory Committee finishes its work, a new position description will be developed, and anyone with the requisite skills and experience will be able to compete for the position.

The Ashland Senior Program Advisory Committee is developing recommendations for establishing a more comprehensive and effective senior program.

The goal of the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Parks Department is to have a senior program just as outstanding as our parks. We will make it happen.

— Michael A. Black is the Ashland Parks and Recreation director.

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