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City and state officials name new school board for Gary

Photo caption: Newly appointed Gary Community School Corporation’s Advisory Board. Clockwise from the top, Shontrai Irving, Akilia McCain, Vanessa Allen-McCloud, Danita Johnson, and Michael Suggs.

Gary’s new school board is set.

Two members of the new 5-member Advisory Board for the Gary Community School Corporation were announced by the City of Gary on Thursday June 29. On Friday, June 30, Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner announced who will fill the remaining 3 positions, just in time to meet the requirement of Senate Enrolled Act 327 that the board be in place by July 1.

That legislation of the 2023 Indiana General Assembly also authorized the Advisory Board to find a new superintendent for the district, in time for the start of the 2024 school year. It also gave the education secretary the responsibility to name the board president.

Gary Mayor Jerome A. Prince selected educator Akilia McCain. “In her previous roles as both a library board president and an elected school board member, Akilia exemplified her deep-rooted commitment to education,” Mayor Prince said. “With her profound expertise and unwavering passion, I am certain that Akilia’s primary focus is to propel our schools towards greatness.”

The Gary Common Council selected Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, executive director of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana.

Council president William Godwin congratulated Dr. Allen-McCloud, one of 10 candidates the council interviewed for the advisory board seat. “We know you worked for the school corporation for several years. You’ve done a lot in higher education, college readiness, and scholarship opportunities. You’re the head of the Urban League which is a vital non-profit organization that fills in so many gaps within our community. We don’t control the schools, but we’re glad to have a voice there.”

Secretary of Education Jenner selected Michael Suggs for board chair. He is the former Director of Operations Integration Planning & External Affairs for NIPSCO.

Jenner also named Danita A. Johnson, Ph.D. – President & Chief Executive Officer, Edgewater Health, Inc. and Shontrai D. Irving, J.D. – Clinical Associate Professor of Business Law, Purdue University Northwest-College of Business.

The City of Gary appointees had to reside in Gary; also, one of Secretary Jenner’s appointees had to be a Gary resident. All 5 have spent the majority of their adult and professional life in Gary.

The legislation sets the school corporation on a path of release from state takeover and return to local control. Now that the district’s finances are in shape, Indiana’s Distressed Unit Appeal Board, which has acted as the state caretaker and manager since 2017, is looking to end oversight by June 2024.

That is also when the DUAB contract with MGT ends. In 2017, the DUAB selected MGT as its local, day-to-day manager of the district. MGT’s contract ends in 2024.

SEA 327 requires the Advisory Board to report monthly to the DUAB until the school corporation is released from distressed status.

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