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Gerdon Alternative School future is subject of debate

Students at the Gerdon Alternative School should see no change while the board of Furthering Youth Inc. prepares to search for a new director, board president David Dillman said.
Dillman has taken on administrative duties with the help of other board members until FYI hires a new executive director.
‘We’ll be setting up that process at this Thursday’s board meeting. Everybody has been thinking on what type of person we want, what type of requirements we want, if requirements we have currently in place are what we want,’ he said.
Once criteria are in place, Dillman said, FYI will post the position and begin accepting applications. The board has discussed the possibility of giving the superintendents greater involvement in the hiring process.
However, the county’s three school superintendents are concerned that negative attitudes toward the school linger.
‘Things can be said, and you can say, ‘Well, I’m sorry,’ and take them back, but they were still said, and it’s hard for parents and kids to forget that kind of stuff,’ said Monty Schneider, superintendent of North Harrison Community School Corp.
Schneider was referring to comments made by the public and FYI board members during two weeks of contentious meetings leading up to the termination of GYC executive director Debbie Heazlitt.
The superintendents later sent a letter asking board members to refrain from ‘derogatory statements’ regarding the alternative school and the students who attend it.
‘Everything was in place before all the commotion. Now, I don’t know what the vision is, because whoever is in charge, I have no idea what they’re thinking or envisioning for our at-risk kids,’ said Phil Partenheimer, superintendent of Lanesville Community School Corp., with respect to the Gerdon Alternative School.
The board of FYI made a formal apology for the ‘public spectacle’ that occurred during the Feb. 24 meeting of the board, and Dillman said during an interview Tuesday, ‘Everything is as it was before as far as the day-to-day operations at school.
‘All of our other staff is still there, and they are performing their jobs exceptionally like they have in the past,’ said Dillman.
Schneider also endorsed the staff of the alternative school.
‘Mike (Esarey) has done a tremendous job for us,’ he said of the school’s full-time teacher.
‘North Harrison would want him included in whatever transpires. We’ve been very pleased with all the people employed through the alternative school,’ Schneider said.
The superintendents, however, remain undecided as to the future relationship between Gerdon Alternative School and Gerdon Youth Center.
‘Basically, we are contracting with the alternative school and our powers are to send our kids or not send them,’ Partenheimer said.
All three corporations have continued to participate thus far, but Lanesville has only one nine-week grading period of school remaining.
‘I just don’t see that in nine weeks there is a lot of room to maneuver as far as where kids are going to go. But during the summer, there might be another decision on this,’ he said.
The Gerdon Alternative School Steering Committee is scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at GYC, a meeting Schneider said he plans to attend.
That evening, FYI has its regular monthly meeting at 6:30. The county council and commissioners have scheduled a joint meeting with the superintendents to discuss the alternative school at 7.
Dillman hopes that the discussions favor the alternative school staying where it is.
If the alternative school were moved somewhere else, the opportunity to bring kids attending the school into other programs offered by GYC would be ‘hindered drastically,’ Dillman said.
GYC’s annual Cops Versus Kids basketball game is Friday at 6:30 p.m. The event is intended to promote positive interaction between law enforcement and youth.