The Crusader Newspaper Group

Introducing The Gary Way

By Paige McNulty

Not too long ago, doing things in education “the Gary way” was not a compliment. The school district’s vendors were not getting paid. The IRS was demanding millions in overdue taxes. And teachers and principals were being accused of cheating.

But things have changed, and it’s time the perception of the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) caught up to this new reality. Over the last five years, GCSC school buildings have been revitalized through tens of millions of dollars in structural and cosmetic renovations. There are now new curricula, new programs to prepare students for careers, new university partnerships to prepare new teachers, a laptop for every student and teacher, and much, much more. Our vendors have all been paid, the $22 million deficit has been eliminated, and our teachers are receiving more support – and pay – than ever.

With greater resources and better organization comes higher expectations, and that’s what we are establishing the Gary Way, a new way of operating in the Gary schools. From pre-K at Bethune to early college classes for West Side Leadership Academy students, we are moving forward with one mission, one vision, and one unified approach to student success.

We developed these goals collaboratively over the last few months. With input from students, families, staff, and community members, I am proud to share the district’s new vision statement: “The Gary Community School Corporation prepares students for college and careers in a diverse, equitable, student centered environment.” The district’s new mission statement is “Doing what is best for students today, tomorrow and every day.”

In terms of what these words look like in practice, there are some surface-level changes, such as unifying colors across the school district and rallying around one mascot, Calvin the Cougar. The cougar was born out of West Side Leadership Academy, the high school from which GCSC students will ultimately graduate.

More substantially, we are spelling out the expectations of students, parents, teachers, support staff, building principals, district administrators and community stakeholders. For our students to have the opportunity to reach their full potential, especially after the hardships created by the pandemic over the last few years, everyone in the district must be rowing in the same direction and focused on the same goals.

The expectations prioritize collaboration and excellence. When students are working hard every day to do their best, when parents are creating a home environment that supports student learning, when teachers and support staff are putting student learning at the core of every decision made, when principals are utilizing supportive interventions for students who are struggling, and when administrators are providing continuous learning opportunities for all staff, we believe GCSC students will be prepared for college and careers.

With all due respect to my colleagues in marketing, I know that it is one thing to introduce a new tagline, but it is another thing to live it. My task, and the task of our leadership team and the principals and the teachers and support staff and parents and students, is to get familiar with the Gary Way, embrace it and – coming from a place of support and being constructive – hold one another accountable for meeting these expectations.

Together, we have accomplished so much already, so I know we can do this! The Gary schools are in a much better place to serve students and families than we were just five years ago. Through true belief in and activation of the Gary Way, we are capable of achieving so much more. Let’s grow together as a unified district!

Here’s to a successful 2022-23 school year!

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