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Gary residents fight for spot on five member School board

Photo caption: Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, left, and Kathy Grimler

Returning the Gary Community School Corporation to local control was on the agenda at the June 12 meeting of the Gary Common Council’s Boards & Commissions Committee.

Out of the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly came Senate Bill 327, legislation setting the district on the path to local control that requires a new 5-member school board for the Gary school district to be in place by July 1.

The Gary city council has the authority to appoint one member; so does Gary Mayor Jerome Prince. The remaining three will be appointed by Indiana’s Secretary of Education. The new school board’s main task is to select a school superintendent for the start of the 2024 school year.

Monday’s meeting was a preview of the 14 applicants seeking the council’s selection to the school board along with applicants seeking to fill vacancies on the board of the Gary Public Transit Corp. and the Gary Redevelopment Commission.

Linda Barnes-Caldwell, 5th District Councilwoman and chair of the Boards & Commissions Committee told school board candidates they could also submit applications to the Secretary of Education. SB 327 requires the Secretary to name a Gary resident to fill one of the 3 vacancies.

A Gary residency is the only requirement for the Common Council appointee to the school board. The Secretary of Education may consider whether a candidate has experience and expertise in kindergarten through grade 12 education, financial management, career development, or higher education.

Caldwell and her committee members, 3rd District Councilwoman Mary Brown and 6th District Councilman Dwight Williams, will present their recommendations to fill the vacancies for a vote at the next city council meeting on June 20.

The return to local control ends a controversial period in Gary that sowed law suits, fomented organized protests, and birthed political campaigns.

School board candidates appearing at Monday’s meeting are well-known and unknown community members.

Glenn Johnson served 12 years on the Lake Ridge school board with nine as board president.

Rev. Dwight Pointer is a 30-year former GCSC employee, starting out as a social worker and ending as a district administrator.

Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud is President and CEO of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana and a 10-year former GCSC employee.

Greg Easton, WLTH Radio station manager, has 40 years of education experience. He taught at Hammond Morton High School for 25 years and served as the school’s principal.

Myles Tolliver is a Gary Lighthouse Charter School administrator.

Four school board applicants — Brian Coffey, Richard Hayes, Louis Tatum and Robert Buggs — didn’t attend the meeting. Since appearance at the meeting was mandatory, Caldwell said those four candidates won’t be considered by the council.

Kathy Grimler is in her 29th year as a teacher in the Lake Central school district.

Mary Ann Canty-Reedus served on the now dissolved Gary school district Advisory Board. Canty-Reedus is a former 34-year teacher with the GCSC.

Latasha Hall has led the Parent Teacher Student Association at West Side Leadership Academy.

Jacquese White has a background in engineering and redevelopment projects.

Jonathan Boose was also a member of the school district’s Advisory Board. He is an employee of the Lake County Treasurer’s Office.

Nine applicants appeared for the two vacancies on the Redevelopment Commission Board. Two of the applicants, Canty-Reedus and White, also applied to fill the school board vacancy.

Redevelopment Commission candidates are Adam Hall, Markael Watkins, Travis Williams, Jeremiah King, Tashaun Brown, LaJuan Clemons, and Rev. Roosevelt Dixon. Hall and King are seeking reappointment to the Redevelopment Board.

Only one of the 3 candidates for the GPTC Board appeared, current member Joi Whiteside seeking reappointment. Richard Hayes and Brian Coffey did not appear.

Mayor Prince has not yet announced his appointee to the school board. Some speculate he will appoint Akilia McCain, who recently announced her resignation from the Gary Public Library Board. McCain was also a member of the Gary school district’s Advisory Board. That board was dissolved with the passage of SB 327.

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