Current Hickey school staff will get a chance to keep jobs Colorado group was panels' top choice.

July 18, 1991|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

The Colorado group that has been selected to run the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School will be in Baltimore next week to interview current staff at the facility for juvenile delinquents.

Although Rebound, a Denver agency, is not obligated to hire Hickey's employees, its directors want to give the state employees a chance to apply for jobs during the six-week transition from the public to private sector, said Nancy Grasmick, secretary of Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services.

Rebound, which runs a national program for juvenile offenders in Brush, Colo., was the unanimous choice for the three-year, $50 million contract, Grasmick said at a State House news conference yesterday.

Although the state will save some money by using a private vendor, Grasmick said, cost was not a major factor in awarding the contract. It costs the state about $52,000 a year, or $142 a day, to keep a youth at Hickey. Rebound will cost $46,000 annually, or $127 a day.

"We're not going to have this opportunity again," she said. "We're going to do Hickey right."

Rebound apparently impressed the two selection committees with its emphasis on community and education. Its Brush facility, the High Plains Youth Center, works with 180 boys from 33 states, including two from Maryland.

The residents there are divided into groups of 12, which are expected to work together and function as a family, said Grasmick, who visited the facility last week. Education and vocational training are important components of the program as well.

Statistics show that during Rebound's three-year history, only 3percent of the youths who left the facility ended up in trouble again, Grasmick said, compared with more than 50 percent of Hickey's alumni.

The Hickey School, which includes a detention facility, has been Maryland's only so-called training school for juvenile offenders

since the Montrose School closed in 1988. Its problems in recent years have included a spate of escapes, overcrowding and attacks on employees.

And, while the Department of Juvenile Services -- first under Linda D'Amario Rossi, then continuing under Grasmick -- increasingly has used small, alternative programs for its youths, the result has been to create what Rossi once called a "residue population" at Hickey. The 200-plus boys assigned there are the state's toughest cases. Learning disabilities, severe emotional problems and addiction problems are common.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly, horrified by a report on conditions at the northern Baltimore County institution, agreed to let a private vendor try running the facility. The request for bids attracted nearly 30 inquiries, but only six companies ended up bidding on June 18.

One of the leading contenders was expected to be W. James Hindman, the founder and former president of Jiffy Lube Inc., who was interested in running Hickey long before state legislators backed the plan.

Proposals were judged by two committees, working separately to evaluate programming and financing. Programming, such as education and vocational training, made up 60 percent of a firm's ultimate score.

Rebound was the unanimous choice of the technical committee, which reviewed the programming aspects of the bids. It remained the first choice after the financial committee added its score.

Nationwide, only Florida and Tennessee have privately run training schools.

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