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School rep takes classroom concerns to new audience

Believing the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees has stifled the public’s opportunity to raise concerns and ask questions, Greg Rupp, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association and a teacher at North Harrison Elementary School, decided to plead his case in a different setting: he addressed the Harrison County Commissioners during their meeting last Tuesday night.
‘I’ve come here because the school board has been shut down,’ said Rupp. ‘I’ve got to do it in a round-about way.’
Since Dr. Phil Partenheimer was hired in June as North Harrison’s new superintendent, the public has been limited to making comments that only pertain to items already on the school board agenda. Rupp has argued that the new procedure limits the public’s right to ask questions and express concerns.
At last week’s commissioners meeting, Rupp said he was concerned about the kindergarten students at Morgan and North Harrison Elementary schools.
‘Morgan (Elementary) is a blue-ribbon school, but not for long if this keeps up,’ Rupp said.
Rupp said the commissioners and county council need to put pressure on the North Harrison school board to hire aides for kindergarten classes. The class size, with nearly 30 children, is overwhelming, according to Rupp.
‘The kids aren’t getting the attention they need in a full-day kindergarten,’ he said.
Rupp showed the commissioners the budget that included unspent riverboat money that dates back to the 2004-05 school year.
‘I know they will come back and ask for more for 2008-09,’ said Rupp. ‘They could surely hire aides for kindergarten. Our corporation has become a bank. They are not spending money the way they told you.’
The commissioners informed Rupp that the school received one lump sum for the five-year kindergarten program.
‘One account could be the remainder of that,’ said James Goldman, chair of the county commissioners.
Rupp emphasized that five accounts totaled more than $1 million. ‘It’s a shame all of this money is laying there,’ Rupp said. ‘It should be spent on the kids, not put in a bank.’
Rupp said he wants three aides for the kindergarten classes at Morgan Elementary and added that North Harrison Elementary could use help also. North Harrison’s classes are smaller, but still relatively large, having between 26 and 28 children.
‘They (teachers) wouldn’t trade their job for the world, but the students are getting short-changed,’ said Rupp.
The leftover funds could be allocated somewhere but have not had to be spent yet, according to Commissioner J.R. Eckart.
‘You’ve definitely raised valid concerns,’ said Eckart.
In other county business:
‘ Mark Porter and Sue Larue asked the commissioners for a $10,000 grant to the Bliss House, a service program that houses women while giving them the opportunity to obtain sobriety, stay sober, and reestablish their family and work life. The Bliss House, located in Jeffersonville, is purchasing property for a new building, totaling $148,000, that would expand its current 12-person capacity. The facility has a waiting list of 15 to 20 women. With the additional facility, an additional 21 women could be served.
‘Those women that enter the house don’t have a working history or education,’ said Porter.
The women are required to get a job and earn a GED while at the Bliss House, said Larue.
The Bliss House has been home to 21 Harrison County women. It operates under strict guidelines, Larue and Porter said, explaining that the residents in the program get off work at 5 p.m., have class at 6 and must attend the program’s 12-step seminar at 8.
‘The women will be able to build a strong foundation before coming back to Harrison County,’ said Larue. ‘It’s the greatest joy to give a daughter back to her parents or give a mom back to her children.’
The commissioners were hesitant to send the request to the council.
‘It’s a slippery slope, giving money to an outside agency,’ said Commissioner Terry Miller. ‘I don’t think it’s Harrison County government’s place to do this.’
‘Is it county government’s role to be a gift giver?’ asked Eckart.
The Bliss House saves the county money by keeping these women out of jail, according to Diane Harrison, Harrison County’s chief adult probation officer.
‘It’s worthy enough to give good consideration,’ said Eckart.
‘ The Corydon-Ramsey and Sival Road intersection improvement project has set a design hearing approval for Nov. 28.
‘There was a set of regulations put in place, that changed our process in the middle of the project,’ said Paul Links of HMB.
A public hearing is set for Jan. 8.