French River Education Center (FREC) is a private, non-profit 501(c) (3) education, training and support agency serving school districts in Worcester County. A “fee for service” agency, the Center, located in North Oxford, was established in 1978 and incorporated in 1984.
At the present time, there are twenty-six (26) member districts. They are: Abby Kelley Foster Charter School, Ashburnham/Westminster Regional, Auburn, Bay Path Reg. Voc. Tech., Blackstone-Millville Regional, Blackstone Valley Technical High School, Clinton, Douglas, Dudley-Charlton Regional, Fitchburg, Gardner, Grafton, Leicester, Millbury, Northborough-Southborough/Algonquin Regional, North Brookfield, Oxford, Quabbin Regional, Quaboag Regional, Southbridge, SWCEC, Spencer-East Brookfield Regional, Sutton, Tantasqua Regional, Webster, and Winchendon.
The Center is governed by a nine (9) member Board of Directors. The day-to-day operation of the Center is the responsibility of the Executive Director.
A FrenchRiver membership makes it possible for school districts to access FREC education training and support services at no additional costs or at discounted rates. FREC offers members enrollment in the purchasing co-op at no additional cost; professional development workshops, conferences and online mini-courses at reduced costs; tuition reimbursement savings on graduate courses offered for credit through Worcester State and Framingham State Universities; lower hourly rates on occupational, physical and speech therapy services, including treatment and evaluations; and discounts on computer training for clerical staff, specifically Microsoft Office. Members are also eligible for FREC donations (see below for Membership Rewards).
The annual membership fee remains unchanged from year to year---as long as the district remains a member---and varies in cost depending upon the size of the school district, i.e., number of students, teachers, and administrators.
FREC Foundation: Giving Back
As a recognized 501 (c) 3, FREC, by definition, is an organization that does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to help pursue its goals. What we do to achieve our goals, and how we do it, is a direct result of our mission statement:
Provide for and enrich the education of the public; Prepare, disseminate and administer education programs for the benefit of the public; and Serve as an advocate of, and conduit for, the donation of industrial resources in support of educational programs. Our mission statement defines who we are, gives structure and direction to what we do, and manifests itself in our program action plan. We are committed to assisting our member school districts anyway we can in the delivery of educational services. One such way, then, is with financial support for specific district needs.
Our record of giving back to our members in recent years, for example, is well documented:
2005 – 2006: French River Education Center's Board of Directors, wanting to thank districts for their support and the use of school buildings for graduate courses, voted to donate $127,000 in cash to members. Cash donations to each member district ranged from $3,600 to $13,000 based on total membership years.
2006 – 2008: For these two school years, the Center purchased AYP Planner from CELT for interested member districts at a total cost of $108,000.
2008 – 2009: The Center purchased a SMART Board, a cart, projection system, and a dedicated Dell CPU, as well as training, for each of our member high schools. The total cost of this gift was in excess of $50,000.
2008 – Present: In keeping with our long-term goal of trying to "give back" to our members each year, the Board of Directors approved the annual purchase CELT's CallOne Notification Service by for each interested member district at “no cost” starting in FY'09. Staff is included as a sub-group for call notices. Total cost to French River to date is in excess of $270,000. (Note: The CallOne, the automated emergency voice messaging service, has been institutionalized and is now an annual gift to interested member districts.)
2012 – Present: The Center also purchased TeachPoint teacher evaluation software for every member district interested in having this technology for their teachers and administrators. The total financial commitment for these gifts during this time period will approach $400,000. New member districts are assured of at least three (3) years of this purchase.
2015 – 2019: Imagine Learning Pilot Programs… an award-winning language and literacy software program that features interactive activities, videos, and games. It’s research-based, instructionally differentiated, and incredibly fun to use. The program targets ELL students, struggling readers, special education students, and early childhood learners. Each year for the next four (4) years, FREC will initiate pilot programs in six (6) member district schools. FREC's support covers the 'one-time' software/server installation costs in each participating member district school---$3,500---as well as the individual license cost of twenty (20) students from that school at $150 each. Our commitment per school, then, in Year 1 alone would be $6,500 per each of the six (6) select districts, or $39,000 in total. With discounts from Imagine Learning, FREC will commit to a total of $140,000 in 'seed money' over four (4) years for program implementation.
In total, since 2005 and projected through 2018, the Center’s donations to member school districts will approach $1.1 million.
In return for these gifts, we ask only that members allow the Center the use of district schools without charge, on occasion, for our graduate courses. This helps us keep the tuition for teachers well below what they would pay for a 3 credit graduate course on the campus of Worcester State or Framingham State Universities. The Center does expect to pay for any weekend use of a building as we understand the nature of overtime pay for custodians. A weekend request, however, is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to scheduling graduate courses.
French River programs and services offered to member districts include:
The Center’s volume buying program reduces cost dramatically for the participating school districts. The Co-op, comprised of school district business managers and FREC administration, solicits bids on twelve (12) generic items: computer supplies, athletic supplies, miscellaneous school supplies, custodial supplies, copy paper, milk/dairy, frozen foods, bread / rolls, non-food cafeteria supplies; fuel oil (#2); natural gas; and electricity.
While these services are included in a FREC membership at no additional cost, non-members who wish to participate in the purchasing co-op, pay $425 per bid item to do so.
FREC coordinates the meetings, prepares bid specifications for all items, advertises accordingly, communicates with vendors, opens bids, and prepares a bid matrix for price comparison and review. Business managers estimate that the district saves approximates 15-20 work hours per bid
Compared to on-campus tuition, school district teachers and administrators enjoy discounts on 3 credit graduate courses that range from $300 to $400 when held in member district schools compared to what Worcester State (WSU) and Framingham State University (FSU) charge for on campus courses. Further, our members are discounted an additional $100 when compared to non-member registrants for summer, fall, and winter courses offered by FREC. WSU and FSU, our higher education partners, award the graduate credits. Since member and association schools are used to hold classes, tuition is affordable making continuing education even more convenient for staff.
DESE Approved SEI Endorsement Courses
FREC is a DESE approved provider of the SEI ‘For-Cost’ endorsement courses—Full and Administrator—for teachers and administrators. Licensure Programs
We offer a 40-hour DESE required seminar series for elementary education, early childhood education, and moderate disabilities preliminary licensure candidates. We also offer a DESE required 70-hour seminar series that satisfies the ‘Subject Matter Competency’ requirement for instructional assistants wishing to earn a preliminary license in moderate disabilities, prek-8 or 5-12. Member district staff have first option for enrolling in these programs.
FREC has partnered with Ed2Go, the industry leader in online learning for adults with more than 2 million users. Ed2Go provides the highest-quality of online continuing education courses that are both affordable and easy to use through a network of more than 2,100 top colleges, universities, and other organizations. French River Education Center (FREC) is pleased to partner with ed2go to bring on line learning to MA teachers.
Occupational, Physical, Speech Therapy and Assistive Tech Services
FREC employs 25 therapists and a program coordinator to meet the occupational, physical, and speech therapy needs of area special education students as well as Assistive Tech specialists. Districts contracting with FREC for these services save as much as 33% when compared to for-profit, third party vendors. Cost savings for member districts apply to direct services, evaluation testing, and evaluation reports. FREC currently provides contracted services to more than 500 children in 25 area communities.