BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The conversation about a joint education center has shifted gears slightly to a new focus of a career exploration center.
Lee County Supervisor Garry Seyb, Jr., told other supervisors at Monday’s regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors, that Lee County Economic Development officials held a meeting last week to discuss the center.
LCEDG spearheaded an effort last year to purchase the former KL Megla building in Montrose to be used as a Joint Education Center for southeast Iowa career technical educational programs.
But the effort hit a roadblock when Central Lee School District wouldn’t allow the program to be operated within their school district.
School District Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier said the district had issues with the overall sustainability of the project as well as underlying concerns about the district being left out of several preliminary discussions that other districts were a part of, including Keokuk and Fort Madison.
LCEDG President Dennis Fraise said discussions on a new direction for the project are very preliminary.
“We’re just having our first steering committee meeting next week and our action groups are meeting this week,” he said.
“We have more than a dozen industries involved and we’re going to make something happen. Right now we are looking at career exploration and how that translates into SCC programming at the end of the day.”
Fraise said Central Lee has not been involved yet.
“Central Lee has not been involved in the conversations, but that does not mean they can’t come back. We just need to determine how we make this positively happen. As I’ve said, it’s coalition of the willing.”
Seyb said he wasn’t sure if Central Lee was part of the meeting last week.
“I don’t know if they were actually part of the meeting that day.,” he said.
“There has been discussion and Central Lee has a lot of great programs happening right now and they’re going through expansion themselves. They weren’t for the KL Megla piece, but we are still in discussion with where we go from here.
“No one’s against having the project. It’s just a matter of how we make that happen and getting those partners together that are focused on making it happen. No one is forced to be part of the program, but those inspired to do that are going to keep the train moving.”
Central Lee Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier declined to comment on the renewed discussions.
Fraise said four action committees were formed last week to handle, facilities, programming, marketing, and finance. Those groups will be reporting back to the steering committee next week.
Fraise said SCC has been actively engaged in the new dialogue, but he said he wanted to be clear that everything is still on the table.
“We want to focus on what’s best for all the youth of Lee County. Everything is still on the table. We’re willing to look at anything and work with anyone who wants to be a part of this.”
Currently there are a dozen members of the steering committee, and Fraise said industries have assigned people to serve on the board and committees.
“There’s a tremendous amount of energy around this right now.”
Fraise said he’s hoping to have a strong workable plan in the next 90 days.