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Dodge updates NH school board about alternative school’s success

Since the founding of the Harrison County Alternative Education Center three years ago, the county has saved about $900,000.
That’s the message North Harrison High School Assistant Principal Doug Dodge, who serves as president of the center’s board, delivered to the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees at its meeting May 14.
Nearly 3,100 students, from middle-school age to high school, have been served at the alternative school.
Dodge said the county doesn’t have ‘bad kids’; rather, there are kids who have made bad choices.
The alternative school offers assistance to students who have been suspended or expelled from regular school, as well as those who need to attend classes in a ‘least restrictive’ environment, or who need to attend summer school, recover credits (19 classes are offered) or earn their GED. The center also assists those students who need to do community service projects.
Prior to the alternative school, students who were sent to detention centers cost the county anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 a month. They also got further behind in their school work, which often led to them dropping out of school altogether.
‘They want to graduate with their friends,’ Dodge said. ‘When they realize they won’t, that’s when the problem comes in.’
Another aspect of the alternative school is truancy court, which also was established three years ago as a pilot program at North Harrison. That program involves Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis and juvenile probation officers Liz Day, Melani Kerr and Shawn Donahue.
The Harrison County Alternative Education Center has been highlighted at several conferences and will be showcased in October in San Antonio.
‘I cannot thank the (county) commissioners, (county) council and Harrison County Community Foundation enough,’ Dodge said.
The program is funded with riverboat gaming money approved by the county council.
Near the conclusion of the meeting, school trustee Gary Byrne wanted Randy Barrett, interim superintendent, to schedule a meeting between the school board and the teachers’ association bargaining team, a meeting that would not include a mediator, an attorney or a UniServ director from the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Byrne said he wanted to get ‘North Harrison people in a room’ to see if they could work out a contract.
North Harrison teachers are working under a contract that expired five years ago.
Byrne’s motion, which was seconded by Jerry Renneker, passed 4-1. Bobby Chinn, who cast the lone nay vote, had asked Greg Rupp prior to the vote if this was something Rupp thought they could do.
Rupp, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, re-plied that the school board ‘can’t regulate who we bring to the table.’ He added that the NHCTA already had two appointments scheduled with Barrett for the following week.
When voting against the motion, Chinn said he thought the board was violating state law.
In other matters during the meeting, the school trustees:
‘ Advertised that there will be a public hearing Thursday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Morgan Elementary School regarding additional appropriations for the Rainy Day Fund.
‘ Had the first reading of the school board policy regarding transfer students. Barrett said students who transfer into the school district after the state average daily membership (ADM), usually in early September, can be charged tuition.
‘ Agreed to accept a $600 donation from First Harrison Bank to North Harrison Elementary School for a science field trip and to accept a $500 donation from the State Farm Good Neighbor Grant Program to the NHHS Band ECA account. No match is required for either grant.
‘ Adopted a revised 2009-10 school calendar. Teacher professional days and parent-teacher conference days were revised after new state regulations banned half-days for students.
‘ Approved a right-of-way easement for Indiana Utilities Corp. for the installation of natural gas lines.
‘ Recognized its retiring teachers ‘ Dan Ayres, Betty Jo Funk, Karen McCoy, Jo Thrasher and Vickye Williams ‘ and cafeteria worker Patricia Rudolph. Each received a rocking chair for their years of service.
The school board’s next meeting will be Thursday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. at Morgan Elementary School.