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Alumni unite to address problems at Roosevelt

The Gary 411

As early as last November, portable heaters were being used in some of Roosevelt’s classrooms, David Bullock told a gathering of his fellow alumni at a meeting Wednesday at the Gary Public Library. Today, the school remains closed after January’s polar vortex forced students from the school when pipes burst and the heating system failed.

The school moved to the Gary Career Center in February.

“I believe Roosevelt is going to be closed,” Bullock said, based on a recent meeting he attended two days earlier with Gary schools Emergency Manager Pete Morikis, EdisonLearning President Thom Jackson via video conference, leaders of Roosevelt alumni organizations, and other community leaders.

The school has been under state takeover since 2011 after maintaining 6 straight years of failing academics. EdisonLearning, an educational management organization was appointed by the state as its partner to operate Roosevelt.

EdisonLearning and the Gary school district are awaiting an assessment of the costs of heating system repairs. Winter heating problems causing loss of school days has been an ongoing occurrence at Roosevelt, even when the state supplied funds for a new boiler and the building’s third floor was closed.

Bullock said the meeting was called by school officials to encourage more involvement of alumni and the community in the school, but the discussion didn’t get beyond the heating problems. Jackson asked for support from the community to help raise funds to repair the heating system.

“I know EdisonLearning isn’t going to pay for it. If the state doesn’t come up with the money, which I think will be in the millions, then Roosevelt is going to be boarded up,” Bullock said.

Bullock asked the alumni to get ready for a big leap, to be ready to save Roosevelt. “We have to decide on a plan to be ready for the alumni to own Roosevelt and make it self-sustaining.” This is the first step and the first meeting, he said, “…but we have to get organized. We have alumni who will invest their time if we get organized.”

Marlon Mitchell, who also attended the meeting with the school officials, is the former President for Ivy Tech Community College, Gary Campus. He told the alumni there is a plan already, from 10 years ago that addressed improving Gary’s public schools and was developed by community leaders, educators from the Gary schools and local universities, public and state officials.

Mitchell said when EdisonLearning and other education management organizations were being considered for the state takeover of Roosevelt, the group presented an “Imagine Roosevelt” plan.

The alumni meeting gave many a chance to air grievances about $500,000 received from the state to repair the heating system. Some said the school board spent the money on other schools, not Roosevelt; that school officials should be held accountable for misappropriation of funds.

“I was among 7 or 8 on the committee who signed off on the invoice,” Mitchell said. “The new boiler cost $375,000. Another $50,000 went to mechanical engineering and architectural services. And the rest was labor. Roosevelt had 4 boilers. The sections being used needed two boilers, but they were only operating one. That’s why the school didn’t have enough heat.”

Alumni will learn results of the assessment on April 2 when they meet with EdisonLearning and Gary’s Emergency Manager.

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