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Discussions surrounding Sunnyside's Promise continue

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole at last night's school board meeting wanted to clarify a few matters regarding the funding issues for Sunnyside's Promise.

He noted there are citizens in the community who have the impression $100,000 in levy funds were earmarked for Sunnyside's Promise.

Cole said that funding was not specifically planned for Sunnyside's Promise, but for gang, alcohol and drug prevention and intervention efforts.

Although Cole specifically mentioned that Sunnyside's Promise would be receiving the money when he campaigned for the levy approved by the voters earlier this year, he told school board members last night that was contingent upon Sunnyside's Promise developing a plan of operations.

He said a plan has not been developed, so the school district is looking at other ways the money can be utilized for gang, alcohol and drug prevention and intervention.

"We never took any money away from Sunnyside's Promise," Cole said, telling the school board that Sunnyside's Promise is seeking funding for administrative costs.

The school district, he said, cannot pay for administrative overhead. He said state auditors directly specified whatever funds the Sunnyside School District dole out must be used to directly benefit students in the schools.

Cole said the school district, the city and Sunnyside Community Hospital originally partnered to contribute funding to Sunnyside's Promise, but the state auditor questioned the use of the school district's funds.

Sunnyside's Promise Chairman Doug Rogers, who is the principal of Sierra Vista Middle School, addressed the board, stating Sunnyside's Promise recognizes a proper organizational structure needs to be in place.

Cole told the school board the city of Sunnyside has been awarded funding for gang prevention and intervention efforts.

The schools, hospital and city have been in discussions regarding how to best utilize funds earmarked for gang, alcohol and drug prevention and intervention.

"A community coordinator must be in place by October 1 or Sunnyside won't receive $180,000 in (gang prevention and intervention) funding," said Cole, stating there are three plans he will suggest to the city and hospital for the coordinated effort.

His preference is that the three entities each select representatives to work together for the group of core conveners. Those individuals would receive technical team support and work with a community advisory team. A project coordinator would work directly under the groups, as would a drug and alcohol work group and a group focused on gang intervention and prevention efforts. There would also be a group focused on the school district's student health center working with the project coordinator.

All three groups, said Cole, would focus on treatment, prevention, intervention and behavioral matters.

The benefit of the structure is that there would be no need for 12 representatives from various outside entities to serve within the work groups, which would combine efforts. Those entities would serve on a community advisory committee, directing the smaller work groups.

The second least complicated structure involves the 12 advisory team members, as well. Those members would come from faith-based organizations, the business sector, the law and justice system, the health care community, youth services, civic organizations, a government organization, parent community, youth community, media, schools and behavioral health organizations.

The project coordinator would answer to the core conveners, a technical support team and the community advisory team, but would coordinate with three separate work groups of service providers.

Those groups would act as separate entities focused on the three areas of concern, including the health center.

Cole told the school board directors the structural plans will be presented to the city and hospital partners next week because of the October deadline for establishing the community coordinator position.

He said Sunnyside's Promise has made it clear the organization does not have an interest in serving in that capacity.

"They are more interested in being a service provider," said Cole.

He is hopeful a memorandum of understanding will be developed for board approval at the September board meeting.

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