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Published: Friday, 6/11/2004

Managers offer plan for keeping school open

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Managers of the Adrian Training School, faced with either a revamped or closed facility, have asked state officials to consider a proposal they have drafted before the school's fate is decided.

The managers, in a Tuesday e-mail to Family Independence Agency Director Marianne Udow obtained yesterday by The Blade, have asked the state to keep the 100-bed training and rehabilitation school open and allow it to retain its 52 female and 35 male charges, ages 12 to 21, while adding new programs in the process.

To deal with budget cuts and a changing juvenile justice system, state officials earlier this year had recommended closing the 127-year-old school, which employs 127 Lenawee County residents.

Lenawee County residents and officials, upset over the school's possible demise, have organized an intensive campaign to keep the facility open.

Apparently, they have had some success. This week, interim juvenile justice bureau Director Kate Hanley told county officials and the school's administrators in meetings that she has recommended to Ms. Udow that the school become a female-only facility, and that the boys be transferred to the W.J. Maxey facility at Whitmore Lake, Mich.

Agency spokesman Maureen Sorbet has said all week that no final recommendation on the Adrian school has been made from Ms. Hanley to her boss, Ms. Udow.

Yesterday, Ms. Sorbet acknowledged Ms. Udow had received a proposal from the school's program managers and said Ms. Udow could receive Ms. Hanley's final recommendation any day.

"Their proposals are being reviewed and will be taken into consideration in the formal proposal to the director," Ms. Sorbet

said.

The managers - Donald Howard, Marilyn Hill, William Powell, and Elizabeth Deo - proposed that 40 beds be made available for males that either are young sexual abuse offenders or part of a transitional program that includes job training, education, and community service activities. They asked that 45 beds be secured for females in five already operating programs, 10 beds for a newly proposed individual focus program for girls with severe mental health issues, and six beds for a transitional program similar to the one proposed for boys.

Regarding Ms. Hanley's proposal to move all the boys to Maxey, the managers said to Ms. Udow: "The current proposal does not make sense either from a business standpoint or for the best interest of the youth.

The cost savings of moving ATS youth to Maxey would be minimal and the disruption and loss of treatment and community opportunities would be great."

Activists working to keep the school open and intact question why FIA would move the boys from Adrian to Maxey.

"They're already separated from the girls [at Adrian]," said Kimberley Davis of the Citizens for Youth Advocacy.

Cindi Gray, another youth advocacy organizer, said community leaders in Adrian have offered mentoring and athletics programs at no charge to the Adrian school as a good-faith gesture to keep the school whole.

State Rep. Doug Spade (D., Adrian), vocal in his support for the school, said the school's managers deserve credit for their bold effort.

"You really have to commend the training school staff for being creative and coming up with something that could be viable," he said. "I've been in touch with [Ms.] Udow and have encouraged her to give it strong consideration. I don't know if it will make a difference or not."

Ms. Udow can tweak Ms. Hanley's recommendation and could come up with a final proposal for the Adrian school by the end of the month, Ms. Sorbet said. The final decision rests with Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Contact George J. Tanber at gtanber@theblade.com or 734-241-3610.



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