Crusader Staff Report
A proposed resolution asking the state to forgive the school district’s massive debts is making its way through City Hall, after Councilman LaVetta Sparks-Wade (6th) recently introduced the measure.
The council’s finance committee was scheduled to review the meeting Tuesday, November 19, but it’s uncertain what action the committee took on the proposed resolution.
In 2017, the state took academic and financial control of Gary’s schools after the district amassed $104 million in debt. The state appointed an emergency manager who had the sole authority to make academic and financial decisions without the approval of Gary Community School Corporation.
The emergency manager however, must continue to inform the state’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board before making a decision on academic and financial matters.
Today, under Emergency Manager Peter Morikis, the district debts have declined to $91 million, but activists and Black leaders say the district is too poor to perform adequately while under tight, state-controlled cost cutting measures.
Sparks-Wade’s proposed resolution calls for the state to forgive the district’s debt and return local control back to the Gary Community School District.
As part of the takeover, MGT Consulting signed a $11.4 million, three-year contract that includes incentives for reducing the district’s debt. MGT executive Eric Parish was designated the Emergency Manager Lead. MGT Consulting set out to boost enrollment in Gary schools as part of an effort to increase state revenue to the district.
MGT’s contract is set to expire in 2020.
(Clarification: The Crusader based on review of MGT’s contract, initially reported that MGT’s contract in July was amended to end in 2021, but Eric Parish of MGT through a spokesperson said “The year 2021 refers to State Fiscal Year 2021, which covers the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The $946,000 budgeted for that year would cover the last month of Contract Year 3 (July 2020) and three possible performance incentives for Contract Year 3. The data to verify whether these incentives had been met will not be available until fall 2020, after the completion of Contract Year 3.”)
Sparks-Wade is a member of the West Side Leadership Parent Teachers Association, which is also asking the state among other things, to forgive the school district’s debts.
The resolution also calls for $25 million or sufficient funds to upgrade West Side’s bathrooms and repairs to its roof and swimming pool. The resolution also asks for funds to make repairs at other schools, but the resolution did not specify where the money would come from.
The resolution also seeks the funding to establish a “museum district,” which would include Roosevelt High School, 730 W. 25 Ave., and the Jackson family home, 2300 Jackson St.
“Appropriate funds are necessary to allow Roosevelt to be a museum which can be visited by the council and maintained for future generations,” the resolution stated.
WEST SIDE LEADERSHIP PTA OPPOSES SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET
The Gary Community School Corporation on October 18 held a public meeting on its $89,072,908 budget for the 2020-2021 school year. The West Side Leadership PTA has filed a petition opposing the proposed budget and said during the public meeting, “no time was allowed for public comments and public comments were not requested or sought.”
The group said Emergency Manager Peter Morikis approved the budget and “there are objections to the one adopted.”
SECOND MEETING ON ROOSEVELT WITH INDIANA BOARD OF EDUCATION
The state’s second of several community meetings on Roosevelt College and Career Academy will be held at 9 a.m., Wednesday, December 4 in Indianapolis. At the first meeting on November 6, State Rep. Vernon Smith blasted state officials and urged them not to close and demolish Roosevelt’s historic building, which has been closed since January, when the pipes burst during extreme cold temperatures.