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Alternative School, Lifelong Learning assets to education

The Harrison County Lifelong Learning and the Alternative Education centers are both great assets to the county and should remain in service for as long as financially possible.
The two institutions should be treated the same, even though that’s not exactly the way it has been done in the past. The Harrison County Board of Commissioners could take what seems like the easiest step and create an ordinance to encompass Lifelong Learning as a county entity. It should also lay a few ground rules for the center, ones that have already been expressed in the public forum, specifically the special meeting held Aug. 25.
Commissioner James Goldman reminded Lifelong Learning director Doug Robson that there are procedures that have to be followed before signing off on grants or other projects. Robson partnered with South Harrison Community School Corp. on a 21st Century grant without asking the Lifelong Learning board or the commissioners. Robson had the backing of his board, but Goldman said the procedure still should have been followed, including asking the commissioners for permission. Robson said he had no problem doing that, but time was of the essence.
Councilwoman Leslie Robertson also expressed concern, and rightfully so as vice chair of the county’s fiscal body, about Lifelong Learning employees being paid for the 21st Century grant during the day, when they’re also being paid through Lifelong Learning. Questions have also been raised about term limits of Lifelong Learning board members. These are a couple of the issues the commissioners should hash out or clarify to Robson and Lifelong Learning before making it an official county entity.
Both education services agree that duplication of services should not occur, and, hopefully, won’t in the future.
The county council should also use the same method to fund the two entities, which it will begin to do in 2011, pending the final approval of the budget. The council appropriates a lump sum to the Alternative School then leaves the budgeting to the board. Lifelong Learning, until this year, had its budget broken down line-by-line. But last month, while preparing the 2011 budget, the council also made Lifelong Learning’s appropriation a lump sum. Both programs are funded out of riverboat gaming funds.
The county needs to make sure the boards are functioning properly; after all, if Lifelong Learning was illegally acting as a county entity since 2003, the blame is as much on the county as it is Lifelong Learning.
Ultimately, both Lifelong Learning and the Alternative School provide a sorely needed service for the county, and the commissioners should do all they can to allow both to continue to do so.