By Erick Johnson
EdisonLearning, the education corporation that the Indiana State Board of Education spent nearly $31 million on for managing Gary’s Roosevelt College and Career Academy during a flawed takeover, is leaving the school.
The announcement was made by the Gary Community School Corporation, which said EdisonLearning gave notice and said their withdrawal will be effective at the end of the school year, when EdisonLearning will end its partnership as joint overseer of Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy.
Interim Emergency Manager Dr. Paige McNulty released the following statement:
“In light of EdisonLearning’s decision to end its partnership with the district in the joint oversight of Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy (TRCCA), our focus is on the needs of the students. Our team is already at work exploring options, and we will be reaching out to the school community as we develop plans. Roosevelt is a giant pillar in Gary’s history, and we will take great care in making decisions that are both logical and beneficial to all who are impacted.”
McNulty said the district’s “highest priority is getting this right for the students impacted, who have already experienced a lot of changes over the past year. We applaud them for their resilience and commit to doing everything possible to support them during this time.”
State officials contracted with EdisonLearning in 2011 after Roosevelt failed the state’s accountability test for many years. School leaders objected to the takeover, but then Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, citing a 1999 state law, was given the green light by the Indiana State Board Of Education to seize control of Roosevelt.
For the next nine years, the state would pump millions of dollars into EdisonLearning while Roosevelt’s students continued to lag behind the state in tests scores and graduation rates as the building crumbled under neglect.
In some years, EdisonLearning made nearly $5 million annually as they continued to underachieve with little to no accountability, according to a Crusader investigation, which highlighted EdisonLearning’s spotty past record at other school districts in the country.
Chicago declined not to renew its contract saying EdisonLearning did not serve the interests of its students.
From 2011 to 2017, Roosevelt continued to earn F grades under EdisonLearning. The company in 2017 inked a new contract with the Gary Community Schools Corporation while the ISBE continued giving EdisonLearning millions instead of giving it to the district. The new contract reclassified Roosevelt as a turnaround school where EdisonLearning would be judged mainly on how well they improved the attendance record at Roosevelt.
Meanwhile EdisonLearning continued to collect millions from the ISBE. With relaxed academic standards, Roosevelt scored an A on the state’s accountability test in 2018.
Under pressure, EdisonLearning pledged $25 million to restore Roosevelt’s historic but crumbling building, but those plans fizzled in 2019, when the state decided to end its takeover of Roosevelt and announced a search for a new company to manage the school.
The move led to a strained relationship between the state and EdisonLearning, which tried, but failed to gain enough community support to keep its control over the Roosevelt.
After the state ended its takeover of Roosevelt, Eric Parish, an executive with MGT Consulting, which managed the school district, said a search was underway for a new company that would manage Roosevelt.
The company would operate under the Gary school district, which the state took over in 2017 to boost academic achievement and reduce the district’s debts, totaling over $100 million.
Last February, the state decided to close Roosevelt’s historic building for good after it was shuttered in 2019 when the pipes burst in the building. Since then, Roosevelt students had held classes at the Gary Area Career Center in Hobart.