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Compromise in sight at alternative school

Members of the new alternative school board said they didn’t know why minds had changed, but they were glad when David Dillman, president of Furthering Youth Inc., told the Harrison County Council that renting space at the Gerdon Youth Center is a possibility.
‘I think things should be fine,’ said Doug Dodge, president of the Harrison County Alternative Educational Center board and assistant principal of North Harrison High School.
Dodge’s words come as a surprise, even to him.
‘With all the frustration that’s happened over the last few months and some of the things that have been said, we pretty well felt like that door had been closed, but we hoped it hadn’t,’ he said.
The rift between the center and various alternative school stakeholders showed no signs of mending after its abrupt appearance in late February. In fact, both Dillman and Dodge said there had been no dialogue between their respective boards.
During that time without communication, FYI’s point of view was misrepresented through ‘blurbs’ in The Corydon Democrat, Dillman charged.
He didn’t cite any specific information, but Dillman was quoted last week as saying FYI ‘will not lease space’ for the alternative school.
Reading a prepared statement at Monday night’s council meeting, Dillman presented a different side of FYI. His organization, he read, ‘is forever indebted to the Harrison County government for believing in our early vision for programs at the Gerdon Youth Center.
‘Over the past nine years of our existence, even though individual members of the council and commission have changed, your support has been unwavering,’ he read.
Relations between FYI and some county government officials were strained during tempestuous open meetings earlier this year. Council president Davis and commissioners J.R. Eckart and James Goldman had all been publicly critical of FYI’s failure to maintain control of those meetings, but Davis was adamant in his insistence that the youth center would remain home to the alternative school if a compromise could be reached.
Dillman’s address contained a broad apology for those meetings. He read, ‘We as a board would like to take responsibility for the way that the public meetings were conducted that occurred in February and March of this year. Our board apologizes to anyone who was offended by anything that was said during these meetings. It was our responsibility to manage the meetings, and our board did a poor job.’
During an interview yesterday, Goldman endorsed the apology, saying, ‘I feel like their comments were from the heart, and I feel like they are going to try to work to resolve the differences to do what’s in the best interest of the kids of Harrison County.’
It wasn’t the first time FYI has apologized for the content of those meetings. The board delivered an apology in March on the heels of the meetings, but it was largely overshadowed by the termination of GYC’s executive director, Debbie Heazlitt, despite a request by the county’s three public school superintendents that FYI take no action for at least 30 days.
Monday’s apology was better received and was issued by an FYI board that has undergone major personnel changes during the past six months. In fact, the majority of the board’s present members had no involvement in the initial turmoil.
‘I feel personally that I’ve seen some positive moves on the part of the board, and that makes me feel a lot better towards the board and the whole situation,’ Goldman said.
Dodge was at the council Monday to request funding for the alternative school for the upcoming year. Those funds would be managed by his alternative school board.
Renting space to an alternative school under the direction of that entity would only be an option ‘if certain criteria are agreed upon’ between that board and FYI, Dillman said.
Though no indication of that criteria was given, Dodge said that it was the intent of his board to retain the current alternative school staff.