By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader
When Thea Bowman Leadership Academy lost its bid for charter authorization back in March, it left the school and more importantly, its students with nowhere to turn to for the upcoming year.
The Indiana Charter School Board had rejected the school’s way of being governed, in addition to the academic performance of the school’s elementary division. For two consecutive years the school was rated “D” by the Indiana Department of Education. In January the school lost its charter from Ball State University and the university refused to renew it. Its charter expires on June 30.
Members of the Drexel Foundation for Educational Excellence, Inc., the body that holds Thea Bowman’s charter and oversees the schools, resigned and four new members were approved. The new members are Atty. Tony Walker, a former Indiana State Board of Education member; Community Advocate Eve Gomez; NIPSCO Operational Integration & Strategy Director Michael Suggs; and AT&T External Affairs Director for Northern Indiana Richard Leverett, who is the former chief of staff to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
The Angola-based Trine University has reauthorized Thea Bowman following the vote by the State Board of Education.
Each one of the new board members were sought out by community leaders to become members of the Thea Bowman board. Michael Suggs said the reason he agreed to the position is because he has a passion for children. He said, “I believed that I could personally assist in helping Thea Bowman by creating a premier learning environment.”
Suggs said it has not been determined how long the new board members’ terms will be. He said, “Right now we have to review the existing bylaws to set term limits. Right now we don’t have any terms. The board members will have to rotate. That will be my goal going forward.”
He said the new board is already conducting monthly meetings. The next meeting will be held in June.
Suggs said this new board will make sure that they comply with the rules of the state in terms of academic performance and turn around.
Richard Leverett said he was approached by several people in the community about him becoming a member of the Thea Bowman board. He said, “The mayor was one along with several other board members. Before I made my decision I talked to staff members and the parent organization.”
Leverett said as of now they are members of the board. He said, “From my standpoint the charter has been initiated so we are just getting ready for the next school year and getting the bylaws updated.”
Leverett said the timeline for the board to achieve their goals for Thea Bowman would be up to the entire board. “I think once we set things up we will release them to all of the stakeholders. I think our goals will be measured on its own merit. It will be run transparent and open. We are looking to set an example,” he said.
Eve Gomez said she agreed to become a member of the board after praying to God asking whether she should take the position. She said, “If God wanted me to do it, then I will.”
Gomez said she use to live in Hammond and dealt with Higher Education for Latin College Readiness. She said, “It gave me the passion to help young people. To see them locked up I felt was not the solution to their problems. I felt their solution was to seek a position for them. I’ve always felt I needed to help young people and there is so much work to be done.”
Attempts to reach Atty. Tony Walker, the fourth member of the board, was unsuccessful by Crusader press time.