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Commissioners back innovative programs

County officials lent their full support Monday night to two innovative programs in Harrison County, one to help people help themselves, and the other to help people help control unwanted animals.
In response to a request from Gerdon Youth Center officials, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask the Harrison County Council for $150,000 in riverboat education funds for HELP, a cooperative Alternative School for at-risk youth that’s not to be confused with a literacy program of the same name at the Harrison County Jail.
Funds for the alternative school program would cover the 2003-04 school year plus two months of summer school.
Also, the commissioners agreed to seek additional funding for the popular spay-neuter program.
The alternative school trial program got underway in March with a $25,000 grant from Metro United Way and a one-time commitment from the Harrison County Community Foundation of $15,000, said Debbie Heazlitt, GYC director.
‘We need to evaluate the program as it moves along; school administrators intend to do that also,’ said Commissioner James Goldman. ‘If it continues to do what’s needed for the students, I would have no problem with continued support.’
The alternative school is an alternative to loss of school time and credit as a result of suspension, Heazlitt said in a written request.
Students who have been suspended from school will attend classes at the GYC under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Students are expected to bring class work assignments and to complete those assignments, provide their own transportation, and a sack lunch.
Failure to comply results in referral to the home school and punishment. ‘The emphasis is on responsibility and educational progress,’ Heazlitt said.
The school was organized as a result of community-wide meetings which began in February 2002 concerning students who were losing the hours they needed to complete course work due to suspensions.
‘This is an investment that will yield tangible results,’ Heazlitt said. ‘If we keep youth on an education track, we can reduce the overall drop-out rate. If we reduce the drop-out rate, we produce more economically self-sufficient adults.’
All three public school systems, the Youth Services Bureau, juvenile probation, circuit court (juvenile) and Goldman have worked for the past year to ‘gain a unified and coherent program to serve youth who might not stay in school,’ said Heazlitt.
Students who complete work at the alternative school will receive high school diplomas. The school also hopes to offer a GED program.
Now, back to the over-populated pet world:
Tanya Tuell, the coordinator of the spay-neuter volunteer program, told the commissioners the $15,000 funds approved for this year are nearly used up.
‘Put in for an additional,’ advised Councilman Carl Duley, who was in the audience. ‘It’s a good program.’
Commission chair J.R. Eckart said he was recently cornered by a constituent who said there’s no animal problem in Harrison County
Tuell said that attitude could exist because many residents take in discarded pets and care for them; if an animal control facility were available, they would probably take the animals there, she said.
As it now stands, residents are burdened with the problem. ‘All these people I’ve talked to say we do have a problem,’ she added.
The commissioners will seek an additional $15,000 from the county council to pay veterinarian Julie Janes to continue the operations, which are free to pets of Harrison County residents.
All surgeries must be scheduled through Tuell, whose telephone number is 969-2615.