Why did EdisonLearning let go 17 teachers at a turnaround school just two days after the school received an ‘A’ on state report card?
By Erick Johnson
Questions are being raised about the EdisonLearning Corporation, which laid off teachers and staff at Gary’s storied Roosevelt College and Career Academy on November 16, two days after the turnaround school received an “A” grade on the state’s report card.
The Crusader has learned that 25 Roosevelt teachers and staff members were called or emailed to warn them of the layoffs that came less than a week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Michael Serpe, spokesperson of EdisonLearning, told the Crusader that of the 25 employees at Roosevelt, 17 were teachers.
Serpe said no phone calls or emails have been sent out to notify families of the layoffs.
Serpe told the Crusader that there were internal discussions held that week and that EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson informed Ronald Sandlin, director of the Indiana Board of Education, of the layoffs, just one day before Roosevelt teachers and staff received a letter on November 16 informing them that their contract will not be continued for the 2018-2019 school year.
The Crusader was unable to reach Sandlin or his spokesperson, Molly Craft, as of press time Wednesday.
Roosevelt’s teachers and staff were reportedly notified on November 16 in the presence of an EdisonLearning human resources representative and Roosevelt Principal Ian Miller, who informed the employees their contracts were being terminated and they would need to collect their belongings within the next hour.
The Crusader obtained the layoff letter that went out to Roosevelt teachers. The letter stated that November 16 is referred as their “separation date” from their employment.
The letter also said that employees will receive their final paycheck on November 23 and will include “all monies” owed to them.
Serpe said the layoffs came as a result of low enrollment numbers and an effort to improve overall school operations. According to the Indiana Department of Education, Roosevelt’s current enrollment is at just under 500 students this school year and is down from about 650 students three years ago.
Serpe’s phone interview with the Crusader grew testy as a reporter asked pointed questions about the layoffs.
“If you’re asking if the employees were warned about the layoffs, the answer is ‘no’,” he said.
Serpe said he does not know the details of the discussion that went on and declined to provide the name and contact number to an EdisonLearning official who was in on the talks.
“They would send you back to me,” he said.
While EdisonLearning maintains that the layoff will not impact the students at Roosevelt, one report says some of the people who were laid off include longtime Roosevelt teachers who play a key role in helping the school to keep scoring an “A” on the State Board of Education annual assessment.
That achievement came after Roosevelt received five “F” grades and a “D” grade for six years while under the leadership of EdisonLearning—a private company that has been paid at least $10 million in contracts with the state—which took over Roosevelt in 2012 after years of failing state grades under the Gary Community School Corporation.
While Roosevelt received an “A” grade, seven schools in the Gary Community School Corp. received an “F” while the district as a whole received a “D.” The district overall received a “D” last year as well.
Since 2001, the School Accountability Grades, assigned every year since 2000 have evaluated school performance based on student language arts and mathematics assessments, graduation rates and college and career readiness.
In March 2017, the state designated Roosevelt an Innovation Network School, a three-year turnaround program that allows struggling schools to improve under a different set of standards until they get back on their feet. Students are not graded on Advanced Placement test scores and test scores. Instead, academic achievement at Roosevelt is based on a percentage of how well the students are progressing towards academic achievement.
On December 12, Roosevelt will hold a community celebration for its “A” grade.