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Committee will be created regarding tech center

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Superintendent: 'We've got to do it right'

By Stephen Lega

Local leaders from education, government and industry gathered Nov. 24 in the Marion County Economic Development office to begin a discussion about the future of the Marion County Area Technology Center.

Marion County Judge-Executive John G. Mattingly said people no longer look at the tech center as the vocational school on the hill.

"It's a requirement for our area that our tech school can provide the necessary resources for our community," he said.

Mattingly, Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw, Lebanon City Councilman-elect Kenny Marrett, Eddie Marrett, Marion County Economic Development Director Tom Lund, Dennis Brown of TG Kentucky, Magistrate John Arthur Elder III, Marion County Industrial Foundation President Freddie Higdon, Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum and Laura Arnold, the tech center principal, attended the meeting.

In light of the Nov. 4 defeat of the recallable nickel, Magistrate Elder suggested creating a consortium of community leaders to come up with a plan to improve the tech center. The rest of the Marion County Fiscal Court also supported the idea.

Shortly thereafter, the Marion County Industrial Foundation encouraged the Marion County Board of Education to move forward with improvements at the tech center, and the school board unanimously voted last month to make the tech center the focus of its next renovation project.

The school board has an estimated $5.7 million bonding capacity. Marcum said the school board quickly drew up a proposed $7.1 renovation plan last December in hopes of getting funding from the state General Assembly. No state funding for the center was included in the budget approved in the 2008 regular session, however.

"We've got more time now," Marcum said. "We've got to do it right."

Elder said county officials understand how crucial industry is to the county's economic success, and the tech center is a critical part of workforce development.

Marrett had a few questions about what changes were needed at the tech center. One of the arguments for expanding the tech center has been the increase in enrollment during the last two years. Marrett said that could mean there is room available in the high school that could be used for technical education. He also indicated he would support other changes at the tech center.

"I wanted to go with a program that actually worked, that has worked in the past," Marrett said.

He later added that he'd like to see the high school's industrial arts program return.

Arnold said that the curriculum at the tech center is established by the Kentucky Tech system, although she suggested that some adjustments could be made, in collaboration with local industry, within the different programs offered at the tech center.

Brown said industry officials have met with tech center officials to identify local needs. The efforts to meet those needs (such as adding three robots at the tech center) have been hindered by some of the physical limitations at the tech center, such as space and the old electrical system.

The consensus at the end of the Nov. 24 meeting was to form a committee to identify what changes are needed at the tech center. Much like last week's meeting, the committee will include education, government and industry representatives.