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Pike Co. School officials question Montgomery about ‘assured’ money

Staff Writer

Some Pike County Schools supporters are tying up the phone lines in Montgomery.

During the Pike County Board of Education meeting Monday night, Superintendent John Key announced the state has reneged on a $427,000 contract with the school system.

He said the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs had promised the money with a contract already signed by Gov. Don Siegelman and Key for the School-to-Work funds from the state.

Then, last week, Key found out the money wasn’t available.

"We had been assured the money," Key said, adding the word "assured" was used be state officials.

The school system had hired Ann Barbaree for the program and has had to fire her since there is no money available.

What upsets Key is the school system had already committed personnel to the program and the contracts had been signed before the money was pulled out of their grasp.

Now, officials in Montgomery are being asked where the money is.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, was in Montgomery Tuesday trying to find out what happened.

He said he had talked to the governor’s staff and even left them a copy of The Messenger

issue bearing the headline "State reneges on $427,000 to Pike County schools."

Boothe said he was told "90 extensions" had been given to grant proposals.

"I’m optimistic," Boothe said of getting the funds. "We’re going to keep trying to save this."

After talking with Nick Bailey, acting director of ADECA, and officials in the governor’s office, Boothe doesn’t "foresee a problem" in Pike County getting the money when all is said and done.

"We’re doing everything that can be done to make sure that money gets to the students of Pike County," Boothe said Tuesday afternoon.

He was told "ours should flow right through" and expects to hear something by the end of the week.

When contacted Tuesday morning, State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, said he had just learned about the situation "10 minutes ago" and he was going to make some phone calls.

He did just that and even met with Bailey, who Mitchell said "was a good listener " in person.

Mitchell said Bailey did not promise the money, nor did he say Pike County would not get it.

But, Larry Childers of ADECA didn’t exactly have the same information.

"I know they have a number that are pending," Childers said of the grants currently before ADECA for approval.

He said there was "apparently some misunderstanding" between Key and state officials and, according to Bailey, the governor has not seen any of the grants.

That statement directly contradicts Key, who said a courier was sent to the governor’s office to pick up the grants so Key could sign the one for Pike County.

Childers also said the grants are expected to be presented to Siegelman in "two to three weeks."

Key hasn’t given up on getting the money, either.

He said the School-to-Work (also known as the School-to-Career) program is one that is beneficial to many students. It helps Atriums students and gives students employability skills.

"It’s something we’re getting a lot of mileage from," Key said of the program.

No information on the situation could be obtained by the governor’s office.