By David Denson
Indiana State Board of Education (ISBOE) member Tony Walker says he is frustrated with the lack of progress in the Gary Community School Corporation since the takeover by the state two years ago.
On July 31, 2017, the State of Indiana hired MGT Consulting to provide emergency management services for the Gary Community School Corporation.
Walker voiced his concerns during an October 2 meeting of the ISBOE held in the Indiana University Northwest Cultural and Science Building.
The previous day Walker and a representative from the governor’s office visited several of the schools in the district. He said during the visit to Westside Leadership Academy there were conditions that were very disturbing. “At Westside Leadership Academy there were ten buckets in the library that were catching water from a leaking roof and there is also mold in the library. All over the school the roof is leaking on the students. There is no excuse for the students not to be able to use the library or sit in class because of these conditions,” said Walker.
“All over the city, the Gary Community School Corporation has abandoned facilities that are standing wide open and making it impossible to talk about redevelopment of the city because of these eyesores,” Walker continued.
At Lew Wallace, which was closed in 2014, they found the door to the school standing open and in other closed schools the utilities were still on. “This is what is called a traffic nuisance just waiting for some kids to go in there and be injured. It’s a lawsuit just waiting to happen,” said Walker.
“Some of the things we saw yesterday need to be addressed by the State. Why take control of a school if it’s not to make it better? But what I saw yesterday, calls into question whether State intervention in Gary schools have made it better. We do have some concerns about the State’s engagement in Gary. If we are going to get involved, it ought to be to make it better. It is basically in the same condition as it was when it was taken over.”
Sixth District Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade attended the meeting and echoed similar concerns as Walker. “I am not satisfied with the level of service our children have received. We have decided to put our children’s education in the hands of the State of Indiana. It is ultimately the State of Indiana’s responsibility to educate our children. There are several school properties that have not been maintained and we need an exit strategy for MGT. Not only are they not being responsible, the first emergency manager received a $250,000 bonus and shortly thereafter, she left. She took our kids’ money with her without providing any service to the schools, said Sparks-Wade.
The issue of Roosevelt Career Academy was also discussed during the meeting.
Roosevelt students have been attending classes at the Gary Career Center since the school’s heating system broke down. The discussion about the fate of Roosevelt and where the students will attend class in the future remains undetermined at this time. While visiting the Gary Career Center, Walker said he observed students attending classes in garages. The Indiana State Board of Education plans to address the future of Roosevelt Career Academy, which has the most pressing issues, at its next meeting.