Director looks to build adult education program

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David Donaldson is the coordinator for the Whitefish School District’s Adult Education Program. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

David Donaldson wants to make Whitefish’s new adult education program for the community, by the community.

“Adult education is a community-based entity. It doesn’t work without the community being involved,” Donaldson said. “The community is the consumer, and the community is where our teachers are going to come from.”

Donaldson recently joined the Whitefish School District as the coordinator for the district’s Adult Education Program.

Donaldson and his wife have lived in Whitefish for the last three years. He holds a doctorate in education leadership from California State University, Long Beach.

Right now Donaldson is looking to future students for ideas on what to offer in the program.

Interested community members are being asked to fill out a survey, which is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TGP9HNX.

“We’re asking what people want as far as professional development, so if you need a computer class, a food handler certificate, we can offer something like that. I think there’s a lot of professional development classes or certifications we can offer,” he said.

So far most of the responses have come from teachers and staff members at Whitefish schools, he said, with suggestions for courses in software like Google Docs and Drive or even an affordable lunchtime yoga class.

Likewise, as a psychology teacher in Flathead Valley Community College’s continuing education program, he understands the fine line Whitefish schools are balancing by not competing with their Kalispell neighbor.

“We want to be responsive to the community. We recognize that they have a continuing education program offering very similar classes, and we want to make sure that we’re working collaboratively alongside them and not competitively,” he said.

“There will be some overlap, but I think that’s OK. We’re the little guy.”

While Whitefish used to have an adult education course, support for it fizzled out four or five years ago, Donaldson said.

The upcoming program brings something new to the table, he said, including a unique Innovation Lab for the community to use.

The lab, housed in Whitefish High School, will allow community members to access a large variety of software and learning programs, using the resources like www.lynda.com and other tutorials to enable self-learning.

“It’s an incubation space, it’s a place for community members to come in and work, learn, experiment in a digital workspace,” Donaldson said.

Group classes will start this summer with offerings like CPR, First Aid, Planting and more.

Some classes will be free while others will require a small fee to help pay the instructors, but Donaldson said the focus is on keeping continuing education affordable and accessible for Whitefish residents.

A program like this is something special, he said, and he’s happy to work on it.

“I’ve lived and worked in big cities and small towns, in the U.S. and out of the U.S., and this is pretty unique. It’s a unique opportunity that anybody in the community can come in and sit down and have access to,” he said.

The full course catalog is available at https://whitefish-adult-ed.coursestorm.com.

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