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State Sen. Eddie Melton, left, and Tony Bennett

Sen. Melton: Repeal Gary schools Emergency Management contract

Contributed By:The 411 News

Blames lack of transparency by DUAB not to reveal ties with former state education head Dr. Tony Bennett

Indpls. – State Senator Eddie Melton is asking the state not to renew the third year contract of the Gary schools emergency management team after learning that the former Indiana State Supt. of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, is closely associated with MGT Consulting.

Melton learned about Bennett’s business interest with MGT from Carol Carlson’s story in the November 27th Post Tribune. Carlson wrote that Bennett is a partner in Strategos Group, which purchased MGT Consulting 3 years ago. In 2017, MGT and Dr. Peggy Hinckley were selected by the DUAB as the state’s partner to operate the financially distressed Gary public schools.

According to a DeSoto County Florida proposal awarded to MGT Consulting in February 2018 for external operator services at Nocatee Elementary School, MGT Consulting and Strategos Group are wholly-owned subsidiaries of MGT of America, LLC.

Melton said he was greatly disturbed by the DUAB’s knowledge of Bennett’s ties with MGT “especially since these ties were known and not shared by certain members of the DUAB before MGT Consulting was selected as the Emergency Manager.”

Melton said, “This is deeply troubling because many of the reasons why GCSC is facing such financial issues are because of the anti-public schools policies put in place by the state’s former superintendent and Republican legislative supermajorities. This includes the Roosevelt High School takeover in Gary that drained millions of dollars from the school corporation.”

Bennett served as state superintendent during Gov. Mitch Daniel’s first term in 2008. During that time, Indiana began aggressive initiatives increasing school vouchers, charter schools, and state intervention in academically failing schools.

Bennett was defeated in his bid to a second term in 2012, replaced by Glenda Ritz. His comeback job, as education commissioner in Florida, ended abruptly after seven months amid charges that he manipulated school grading rules and broke campaign ethics laws during his time in Indiana.

DUAB executive director Courtney Schaafsma told the Post Tribune she knew of Bennett’s ties with MGT in 2017 when she was a DUAB member and that Dr. Bennett did not play a role in the decision to hire MGT.

“I suggest the governor and members of DUAB immediately rescind MGT’s contract. These matters must be corrected through a fully transparent process with the goal to reinstate the trust and confidence of those whom we all hope to better represent and whose precious tax dollars deserve to be better managed,” Melton added.

Implications of trust could be a factor for Gary’s emergency management team in 2019. Sen. Melton is a co-author of the legislation that authorized the state takeover of the Gary school district. Appropriations for the third year of MGT’s contract will be considered during the legislative budget session that begins in January. And the senator will sit on the DUAB in January as a non-voting member, replacing Gary’s State Rep. Vernon Smith.

Trust could play a part for Gary voters who may be faced with a school referendum in 2019 to increase property taxes.

Story Posted:11/30/2018

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