By Crusader Staff Report
With failing grades and poor graduation rates, Indiana’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board last week voted 4-1 to give MGT Consulting a two-year contract to manage Gary’s state-controlled school district.
The proposal fell short of MGT’s request for three years. Details about the proposed contract were not available when the announcement was made Thursday, June 18.
DUAB member Tracy Brown was the only official who voted against the two-year contract proposal, because of MGT’s failure to achieve academic improvement among students in the Gary school district. Brown proposed a one-year contract. She disagreed with state School Superintendent Jennifer McCormick’s view that MGT benefitted from three years in Gary.
MGT’s current contract was set to expire this month. In 2017, MGT was chosen over several private management companies to take over the school district and reduce its debts totaling over $100 million.
The DUAB cited the district’s strong financial rebound in awarding the proposed extension. The district’s annual deficit has reportedly dropped from $22 million to $6 million. In a distressed school district, Indiana law requires a balanced budget for two consecutive years before the takeover ends.
The proposed contract is shorter than the three-year extension that MGT requested. DUAB Executive Director Courtney Schaafsma said MGT helped students reach achievement growth in 2017 and 2018. She said that MGT eliminated operating irregularities in 2017 and boosted enrollment in the last two years.
DUAB Chairman Justin McAdam said no raise is being offered to MGT and that the contract will be evaluated at the end of the two years.
Emergency Manager Paige McNulty said the district is developing an accountability plan that will focus on academics, engagement, finances and operations.
Last month, the Crusader published a story that showed that academic achievement in the Gary school district plummeted under MGT’s leadership. Five schools received “F” grades for two consecutive years while school suspensions dramatically increased.
West Side Leadership Academy saw its graduation rate plummet from 87.3 percent to 58.5 percent while its dropout rate increased to 49 students.
In March, five elementary schools received failing grades in ILEARN test scores.