Gary mayor leads council to encourage state to keep control of school district

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Crusader Staff Report

The Gary Common Council on Tuesday, February 18, declined to override Mayor Jerome Prince’s veto of a resolution that demanded the state return local control back to the Gary School District.

Following up on his promise, Prince on February 4, vetoed the resolution that was passed before he took office January 1. The Council passed the resolution 7-1 in December, 2019  after members of the West Side Leadership Academy Parent Teachers Student Association urged city leaders to send a message that would state officials to return local control back to the Gary school district.

The only dissenter, Council President Ronald Brewer sparked criticism when he refused to sign the resolution.

The resolution was vetoed pass on Tuesday, after the Council failed to introduce an override. It was Prince his first veto in his first term as mayor. Councilwoman Lavetta Sparks-Wade was the only official who raised her hand in favor of an override.

The inaction sparked heavy criticism towards council members, who are accused of not standing up to the mayor on an issue that has deeply affected the parents and students in the school district.

“I was extremely disappointed with the council who did not have the audacity and boldness to stand up against the mayor,” Sparks-Wade told the Crusader.

The state took over the entire school district in 2017 after years of dwindling academic achievement and mounting debts totaling $100 million. A team that includes Emergency Manager Pete Morikis and MGT Consulting Group has been operating with full authority to control the academic and financial decisions of the district. Distrust with Gary residents continues to decline and deepened with the state-controlled district’s handling of Roosevelt College and Career Academy’s historic building, which they recommended to close for good. The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board agreed in their final decision February 13.

Black lawmakers are calling for local control be returned back to the Gary School District.

In his veto, Prince said that he did not want to send “mixed messages” to state lawmakers who are reviewing a bill that would defer about $40.3 in loan payment to the school district. The bill, which passed the Senate and is on its way to the House, would allow $500,000 to be deposited in a school improvement account. That account would be used to pay for the demolition of vacant school buildings and infrastructure repairs.

At 7 a.m. on Friday, February 28, the West Side Leadership PTSA will hold a prayer vigil near the school’s football. The public is urged to attend.

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