The Crusader Newspaper Group

OP-ED: Update to the Referendum challenge

By Dr. Paige McNulty

Each day, your team at the Gary Community School Corporation is responsible for providing quality educational opportunities for our 4,500 students. That means providing classroom instruction, ensuring student safety and safe transportation, providing meals that meet rigid nutritional standards and offering additional academic support and extracurricular options for all of our students.  

While we have done well by increasing enrollment, providing pay raises to our teachers and staff for the first time in over a decade, and doing everything possible to be consistent, accessible and transparent in all of our activities, we will do even more to improve opportunities for our students and for the Gary school community.

Unfortunately, like those who want to invalidate the national election, we face detractors who want to invalidate the overwhelming support that you and other Gary residents demonstrated via the public-school referendum in November 2020.  

That referendum, the first ever passed in our school community’s history, was the result of a broad-based coalition of Gary residents determined to make the right investments to support our schoolchildren. “Have Faith in Gary’s Schoolchildren” was not a slogan, it demonstrated the support of all elements of our school community. 

Last week, an op-ed was posted in the Gary Crusader that made several allegations that activities conducted in support of the referendum were unlawful.

 I want to take a few moments to respond to this continued misinformation and to provide you with accurate and honest information. 

First, we have worked with local elected officials and those in Indianapolis to make sweeping changes to improve future options for our students. 

The state worked with MGT, a nationally recognized firm with considerable experience in public education, to assist Gary residents on the needed changes to our schools. Please note that while the referendum received over 60 percent support from you and other Gary residents, MGT has not, does not and will not receive any money from GCSC in any way including the referendum revenue.  

The firm is paid by the state of Indiana and its activities are reviewed by a state-level board that includes representation from our community. Any other inference relative to MGT is false.  

Second, throughout the local campaign, our volunteers worked with a separate Political Action Committee to build support for the referendum. That Committee included a substantial number of Gary residents, community activists, local business owners, parents, faith-based leaders, teachers and countless others.  

Together, we hosted community forums, attended meetings, knocked on doors and worked for one basic goal, to build the support necessary to provide ample opportunities for our schoolchildren. Once again, to infer that anything was done in violation of any election rule is not accurate and is an affront to the almost 14,000 Gary residents who supported the November 2020 referendum.  

Third and finally, the process of turning around our Gary Schools will not be done overnight. Together, we are addressing a myriad of issues, including lack of investment in the past, lack of funding to support our teachers and staff, buildings that needed major capital improvements and financial operations that require daily review and oversight. 

Like many of you, we are working each day to make the changes needed to move forward. We now have the investments needed, thanks to support of the voters in our community; we have provided support to our teachers and staff; renovations have started on our buildings, and the track at West Side Leadership Academy is up and literally “running;” and our fiscal house is improving each day.  

I want to close with one final thought. When our schools opened, I saw firsthand the hopes and dreams of scores of our schoolchildren as they entered our schools. They were excited to know that you and others had made the right decision, making the right investment by supporting them at the right time and by believing in Gary and our community’s future. We owe that to our schoolchildren…and our community.

Let’s keep working…together.

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