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The Rise and Fall of Community Services
Submitted by Clyde Allen
Chabot College

One of the original, legislated, functions of the community college system was to provide Community Service. To achieve this, a special tax was authorized so that community college districts could have a source of funds to develop community service activities and programs.

The initial activities of the Office of Community Services were under the direction of Dr. Lee Hinckley and his assistant, Santiago Garza. Dr. Hinckley was soon transferred to the Office of Instruction and Mr. Garza took over the leadership function. After a few years, he was joined by Dr. Clyde Allen. Within a few years, Mr. Garza was transferred to another position and Dr. Allen, without an assistant, became the ruler of the realm.

Dr. Allen believed that the Office of Community Services was more than a means to provide an opportunity for the immediate area public to experience professional entertainments. Community Services was at best also instructional. While the Office provided high quality, professional entertainment (Shirley Jones, Mel Torme, Les Brown), it also sought out events to add to the cultural as well as the entertainment value of the community. One of the early programs brought in was the Western Opera Theater. This, at the time, was the touring arm of the San Francisco Opera Center. Fully staged opera was sung in English. A significant adjunct to this was the opportunity to also include an abbreviated, one-hour version with narration designed for school children. This became a yearly part of the schedule. 1500 school children each year from throughout the district were introduced to opera in this way. At no cost to the schools.

The Performing Arts program was received well by the community at large. Almost all of the programs were sold out. As a result, the sale of season tickets usually took care of fully half and more of ticket sales. During the last three years, the income from ticket sales covered the contract costs of the programs. Contract costs are only a part (a major one) of the total cost. No performing arts series can survive without additional funds.

Another innovation introduced by Dr. Allen was to include each year programs from foreign countries. This brought in such programs as the Chinese Acrobats and a program of Russian Children presenting dance and music. With that program, the Office arranged to have area school children create a picnic in the park for the Russian children. In this way, there was an informal, one-on-one, cross-cultural interaction.

An additional event added by Dr. Allen was the introduction of a summer theater production involving a guest artist. He produced a series of plays that involved both local actors and crew and a guest “star.” The play was mounted using the talents of the Chabot Drama Department and set designers from San Jose State. The cast was local. This enabled students to interact with, as an example, Marjorie Lord, and (former Chabot College student) Tom Hanks who appeared in Charlie’s Aunt.

The Office also took over the responsibility for College for Kids. The location was moved off-campus (No room at the inn, as it were.) to an elementary school. The structure and pricing of the classes was arranged so that the program fully paid for itself. Indeed, there was always a surplus of income so that some of the ancillary costs within the Office of Community Services were also covered.

The cumulative effects of Proposition 13 severely affected the financial condition of all schools and colleges. In spite of the clear success and service to the community who created the college district, the powers that be decided that the Office of Community Services was something the District could no longer afford. Programs were shut down and the office was closed.

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©2007 C.A.R.E.

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