Education Alliance formation continues

The Elkhart County Council on Saturday appointed four members to the new Elkhart County Education Alliance as the new body, meant to bolster educational offerings here, takes shape.
Posted on Feb. 5, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Formation of the Elkhart County Education Alliance took another step forward with selection of four appointees to the board.

The Elkhart County Council named the appointees Saturday and Elkhart County commissioners are expected to appoint three more on Monday, rounding out the governing board’s formation.

The alliance would work with Elkhart County schools in trying to bolster education among students here. Many details about the new body still need to be worked out and Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder, who spearheaded the body’s formation, is still in talks with area school officials to get them to join in the initiative.

But he’s thinking big.

“The intent of this is to close down the jail,” Yoder told council members Saturday, alluding to the broad hope of raising the prospects of kids graduating high school here. “We talk about transforming the community. You will see a reduction in crime in this county.”

John Letherman, president of the county council, said there may be naysayers who think the alliance is somehow doing what parents ought to do. Indeed, some members of the Tea Party of Michiana Action Coalition have voiced strong reservations about the alliance, though no one spoke out against the plans Saturday.

The new body, though, isn’t meant to supplant control from individual school boards, Letherman said, and he noted that for some segments of the community “there are no parents, there’s nobody watching them.”

The alliance, broadly, would work to promote preschool education and increase the number of high school grads who are ready for college or a career. Details have to be worked out, though, and Yoder noted that if boosters can’t raise enough funds — most likely foundation or private sector money — the initiative could die before it gets off the ground.

The Goshen and Middlebury school districts have agreed to take part in the alliance and Yoder said he’s in talks with representatives from the Elkhart, Concord and Jimtown school districts. Superintendents and school principals seem to support the alliance initiative, Yoder said, but the proposal “is not a slam dunk for school boards at all.”

The appointees Saturday and the three on tap to be tabbed Monday come largely from the Elkhart County business community. Named in a unanimous voice vote by the county council Saturday were Larry Brooks, Bob Deputy, Ron Fenech and Wes Herschberger. Likely to be named by county commissioners on Monday are John Leavitt, Amish Shah and Dan Oakley.

Also Saturday, the council directed Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson to move forward with an inquiry into the possibility of moving to voting centers to handle elections.

Under the proposal, voters on Election Day would be able to cast ballots at any of 13 strategically placed polling places around the county. As is, there are 82 voting sites across Elkhart County and voters must cast their ballots at the location that corresponds with their voting precinct.

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