By Dr. Paige McNulty,
Emergency Manager, Gary Community School Corporation
The coronavirus pandemic has created one challenge after another, so as I drove to a meeting with the Baptist Ministers Conference of Gary and Vicinity, I wondered what setback I might encounter this time.
We were meeting about the referendum that the Gary Community School Corporation has proposed for Election Day, November 3. The district is trying to raise revenue in order to give teachers the salary increase they deserve, offer more academic and extra-curricular opportunities to students, and balance the budget, which would help end state control.
I finished my remarks to the pastors, and then I braced myself for their response.
They supported the referendum plan, but… they wanted more. You need to be more ambitious, they said. You need to seek a level of support that will lead not just to better schools but to great schools. After all, they said, that’s what our children deserve — greatness.
Their willingness to go on record and publicly support a measure that is sure to be met with some resistance gave me hope. Amidst all of the tumult of 2020, I truly felt that I was not alone in this fight for our children. The pastors were keeping the faith in Gary, Gary’s children and this referendum.
Since that meeting, I have met with community groups, union representatives, elected officials and practically anyone who will hear the case we are building to help Gary’s youth and rebound our school district in the process. The present might be full of challenges, but there is growing consensus across the city that a better future rests on how well we prepare our current generation of young scholars.
The referendum would invest in our students’ education in four ways:
First, is increased teacher and instructional staff compensation. The first $1 million raised would go to our more than 400 teachers, who have not received a raise in more than a decade. SO many have remained through good times and bad, and they deserve our support.
Second, is arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Children in the Gary schools deserve the same opportunities as students in neighboring districts. Being able to play sports on manicured fields or sporting new band uniforms should not be considered luxuries, but rather the standard. Our kids deserve opportunities to develop all of their talents and offering organized, consistent extra-curricular activities is a way to do it.
Third, is socioemotional support. Our students have lots of potential, but they also face lots of challenges, especially now. Passage of the referendum would allow the allocation of funding for academic and social support counselors, enabling us to support the whole child.
Fourth, is enhancements to academics and students’ learning environment. Our students deserve every opportunity, especially after the pandemic interrupted their learning. Our youngest scholars need increased pre-K opportunities in order to prepare for kindergarten.
Middle and high school students need to develop the skills and awareness needed to succeed in college and careers. The referendum would support both goals.
This referendum plan, combined with the renovations to our current school buildings that are already underway thanks to funding from Bill 1065, help forge the path forward for the Gary Community School Corporation. Together, with your help in November, we can deliver the educational opportunities to Gary’s youth, because they deserve it!
Keep the faith!