The last book that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote asked the question “Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” In assessing the plight of the Gary Community Schools King’s question may have a degree of relevance.
Many are aware of the problems facing the Gary schools as they have been played out in the headlines of local newspapers including the Gary Crusader. No doubt citizens have formed opinions regarding what needs to be done to rescue the beleaguered school system.
For some, however, having an opinion is where their involvement ends. That was evidenced last year when voters were given the opportunity to aid in bailing the schools out of their financial bind, and for a second time in a two year period, voters rejected a referendum that would have provided a mechanism to aid in reducing the school system’s mounting debt. The defeat of the referendum could have been interpreted as a sign that the community was content to see the Gary Community Schools close its doors rather that spend taxpayers money to save it.
There are those who chose to remain optimistic that the crisis can be addressed with a successful outcome being reached. A bill designed to bailout the school system crafted by Sen. Eddie Melton and Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley has received support in the State Senate. Rep. Charlie Brown has sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives.
Members of the school board are scheduled to meet with the state’s Distressed Units Appeal Board to discuss getting a loan from the state. Prior to the meeting the board approved Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt’s request for a 30-day leave of absence. While Pruitt is on leave Assistant Superintendent Cordia Moore will serve as interim superintendent.
In placing Moore in the interim position the board is showing that the school system is in capable hands and not distracted by a number of side issues that had the potential to further portray the Gary school system in a negative manner.
Going forward the Gary Community School Corporation has an opportunity to use the crisis as a learning experience and hopefully it will make them better stewards, not only of their finances, but also its human capital.
In essence it is quite clear that business as usual can no longer be the order of the day.
The board must begin to take a serious look at ways to rid themselves of the abandoned schools that no longer serve a purpose and only contribute to the blight the city is combatting. It and all-possible buyers for those properties need to be identified and if they can’t be sold, then the board should enter into discussions with the city regarding having the structures demolished.
Whether or nor Superintendent Pruitt returns after her leave the board should begin thinking about identifying and putting in place a new leadership team.
It is apparent that there are individuals and agencies on the local and state level that are willing to help the Gary school system succeed, but it can’t be a situation where others want it more than you want it for yourself.
Only the Gary School Board of Trustees can answer the question: “where do we go from here.”