Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2007

County asks districts to help fund truancy program

May 23, 2007

School districts in Leavenworth County will be asked to share the cost of a highly successful program that's now partly funded with a grant to the county's Department of Juvenile Services.

County commissioners on Thursday agreed to draft a letter to superintendents of Leavenworth County school districts requesting cost sharing in the county's Truancy Reduction Program after federal grant funding dries up in 2008.

The program, which targets delinquent students before they are legally truant after seven unexcused absences, is currently funded under a three-year, Title V grant, with funds being matched by the county.

Bob Doyle, Juvenile Services director, said the program has been overwhelmingly successful.

Of the 252 cases thus far, only 17 students have failed the program or refused it, Doyle said. Homework completion has gone up for 97 percent of all clients on the program while absences and tardiness dropped drastically, he said.

First Judicial District Judge Robert Bednar, in a letter to commissioners, commended the program as an extremely cost-effective tool for reducing truancy.

"I would hate to see Leavenworth take a step back to where it was nine years ago when I first took the bench and began hearing truancy cases," Bednar said.

Previously, students were referred to the Juvenile Detention Center's truancy only after they became truant.

"This program is more preventative than punitive," Doyle said. "It's a student prevention advocate program for students and their families -- and I think it's valid enough to be carried on."

In the program's first year and a half, the county has contributed $68,000 in cash or matching funds to the program. The program serves Lansing, Basehor-Linwood, Tonganoxie and Easton school districts. Leavenworth schools have a truancy program of their own.

In other business Thursday, the commission:

  • Voted, 3-0, to donate some surplus kitchen supplies leftover from when the County Infirmary closed last year to the Heritage Center in downtown Leavenworth.

All remaining items, ranging from beds and stoves to a heavy-duty safe and commercial washers and dryers, are to be auctioned in late June.

"I want to support the Heritage Center as much as possible because it provides for the county's elderly," 2nd District Commissioner Clyde Graeber said.

  • Unanimously approved a proposal from Council on Aging director Linda Lobb for a Homemaker Program. The cleaning service will assist area seniors who are unable to clean and do certain household chores themselves.

Seniors between 60 and 70 years old would need a doctor's note that establishes them as disabled for at least 1 month to be eligible for the service. For those over 70, no disability statement would be necessary, Lobb said.

She said the cost of the program would be $12.50 per hour, and it would begin sometime early next year.

  • Considered formulating a single policy for compensating county employees who seek resources for continuing their education to improve work-related skills.

The issue was raised after Health Department administrator Sylvia Burns approached the commission with a request to continue extending full health care benefits to a licensed practical nurse in the department who will go back to school this fall.

Currently, an employee who works under 80 hours per two-week pay cycle receives half coverage.

Commissioners expressed concern that employees continuing their education might leave the county once further education was completed. They discussed requiring employees to sign a contract, stating their intent to stay if they wanted compensation. But this also raised the problem of promising future employment, which Commissioner Dean Oroke said the county could not do.

Ultimately the board gave the green light to Human Resources director Diane Collin to work on a policy that would encapsulate all situations, including when county paramedics go back to school or when noxious weeds personnel attend classes to legally handle hazardous materials.

"(This issue) is much broader than just the Health Department when we really look at it," Oroke said.

  • Voted unanimously to renew Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn's contract under exempt status at a yearly salary of $69,003.
  • Voted, 3-0, to continue to use Seminole Energy Services, of Tulsa, Okla., for gas service in the county under a two-year contract.
  • Met in an executive session for 15 minutes to discuss pending litigation.

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