SEDONA - Students at the Sedona Film School have organized the Sedona Film Council to protest Yavapai College's plan to close the program for at least a year.
YC's announcement that SFS was going on a one-year hiatus coincided with public forums intended to solicit opinions on the school's 10-year facilities master plan. The deans mentioned that the program was not accepting students for the next academic year, and other options for the facility are being considered.
Student Daryan Burguan started the nine-week SFS curriculum in August, and said she and her classmates have already created strong friendships.
"It's a great bonding experience, and you're really not going to get that anywhere else," Burguan said. "The instructors are great and they understand our needs."
The Sedona Film Council wants SFS to separate from Yavapai College to become a private film school under either Northern Arizona University or the Tennysons, who own the Sedona Cultural Park.
Verde Valley campus Dean James Perey said SFS is heavily subsidied by the school, and saw enrollment drop 44 percent in the last year.
"It's time to take a really close look at that program, and that takes some proper planning," he said.
Closing the campus and the facilities master plan are two separate issues. The film program has several flaws impacting enrollment that need to be fixed, like only allowing full-time students to take classes.
"Even if we're ruling out that master plan, we're looking to shelve that program for at least a year no matter what so that we can retool it," he said.
Current students will not be affected by the closure.
"We won't be shelving that program until the end of this academic year," Perey said. "We're not taking on any new students."
The college is gathering data on the cost of launching a culinary school. That could be an option for the Sedona facility if the film program is scrapped altogether.
Perey said the college hasn't decided definitively to move in that direction, and that the Sedona site is not conducive to the needs of a culinary school.
"We're running a cost analysis to see if this is something we can do," he said. "There's no connection between closing down the film school and launching culinary."
Marketing for each program is handled by the college. No one school has a marketing budget, but they are given a website and funds for recruitment.
Perey said Yavapai College cannot allocate several thousand dollars for one program to market itself, and won't invest more money in a program with a curriculum that doesn't allow Mingus Union High School students to earn dual credits or create a pathway from secondary education to college, a project being pursued by media teacher Jeff Wood.
"Just throwing money at a program does not make it better," he said.
Professor Bryan Reinhart has worked at the school since it opened in 2000, and said specialized programs like film can't be marketed like English or Math.
The school's location in the cultural park does limit expansion, which Reinhart said is why the school is trying to sell off the facility altogether.
"The college has always wanted to get rid of that property and, because we're housed there, us along with it," Reinhart said.
Professor Jeremy Hawkes has taught at the school for 11 years and said the college has decreased the security presence on campus, not filled positions vacated by employees who retired or moved on, and eliminated programs that helped boost enrollment.
SFS was more selective about the students who were enrolled this year in an effort to cut down on the number of people who weren't serious about film as a career, Hawkes said. This decreased enrollment so that professors could spend more time with each student.
"The value of the program is underestimated," Hawkes said. "I'm surprised that they would close it."
The campus director position has been vacant for at least five years, he said.
Most colleges do not have full-time security officers, Perey said, also noting that the hiring process for administrative positions is lengthy.
"Every position is reassessed when somebody leaves," he said, noting that the responsibilities of some jobs are redistributed among the other employees.
Professor Bryan Reinhart has been at the school since it opened
Sedona Mayor Rob Adams said he knew there were problems with enrollment at SFS, but he was still surprised to learn about the college's decision during the master plan public forum.
"I was kind of disappointed that I was not aware," he said.
The city can facilitate meetings between the college, the city and the owners of the cultural park to solve problems like expanding to provide adequate parking and new programming.
Adams said the school fits well with the community, which used to be a site for filmmaking and is home to the Sedona International Film Festival. The city has a vested interest in the school's success.
"There may be something the city could have done to avoid having the campus closed," he said.
Karin Kwiatkowski and her daughter Abby live in Sedona and both graduated from the film school in 2010. Karin shoots videos when she's not at her job three nights each week, and Abby got a job at Verde Valley television after her graduation.
The amazing part, Karin said, is students have organized to save the school even though its closure won't impact them at all.
"In less than three months, they feel so much pride in this school that they've really become proactive," she said.
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