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Board asked to fund engineer position at tech center

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Position would cost the district $75,000 for the next year and a half

By Stevie Lowery

Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund and Kenny Marrett, a member of the Marion County Jobs Training Consortium, made a presentation to the Marion County Board of Education during its meeting on April 6, 2010, about enhancing curriculum and adding practicum courses at the tech center. At the time, their hopes were that they would receive a $500,000 grant from the state, which would help fund the hiring of an engineer and a coordinator for two years to develop several practicums and lesson plans at the tech center.

However, the grant was not approved and Lund and Marrett were back in front of the school board last week. They asked the board for $75,000 to fund an engineer position for a year and a half at the tech school. Several people have already been interviewed for the position and Marrett said they have one in mind that would be ideal for the position.

According to Lund, it's imperative that the curriculum at the technical school be improved.

"We've been trying to enhance the curriculum at the technical center for 15 years," he said. "We have recently stepped up our work and our intentions mainly because we have an ultimatum from our industries."

Lund said there have been industry officials from Switzerland, Germany and Japan visit Marion County recently and one of the first things they wanted to see was the technical school.

"We've also had consultants in from Cleveland and Chicago recently and the one thing they wanted to see was the technical school," he said.

According to Marion County Superintendent Donald Smith, with the recent cut in SEEK funding (see sidebar), he's going to have to sit down with Lisa Caldwell, the finance director, and see what the district can afford to do. Smith said he planned to come back to the board's next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, and make a recommendation for the board.

"We need to give them an answer by the end of this month," Smith said.

According to Board Member Ed Hacker, providing funding for an engineer at the tech school is something the board should definitely consider doing.

"I think at the high school where we offer AP and dual credit and those type of things this would be a way to help all students," he said. "I am a graduate of a technical school myself. I think it's a way to help all students."

Financial report

Lisa Caldwell, the district finance director, reported to the board that the SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) program funding for the current school year has been cut by two percent, which translates to a little more than $263,000 for the local school district. However, Caldwell said that when budgeting, she set aside a reserve so this cut in funding won't have as large of a financial impact on the district. And revenues may offset the cut in funding, Caldwell said.

Recently, the Kentucky Department of Education reported that it will cut basic funding to local school districts by almost $50 million this spring because of an unexpected financial shortfall. State education officials blamed the funding problem on an unexpected statewide rise in student enrollment.

The SEEK program provides basic operating money for 174 public school districts.