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Darneatryce Scott, left, and LaRona Carter came forward at Tuesday night's city council meeting seeking help for Gary schools

Gary City Council becomes sounding board for Gary public schools' woes

Contributed By:The 411 News

Administration and council want to help, but offer different solutions

With nowhere else to turn, a member of the Gary Community School Corp. Advisory Board and a kindergarten teacher at the school corporation's Banneker at Marquette Elementary School came forward at Tuesday night's city council meeting seeking help.

"I'm asking for this council, the city, and the community to intervene to better support our schools," said Darneatryce Scott, the Banneker teacher.

"We need you to be aware of what's happening. We need your help," said LaRona Carter, the school board member.

Carter and Scott know it’s unlikely the city council will act on their grievances, but the city council meeting was their chance "to get the word out."

Scott recounted sensational news reports from this school year. The Banneker student who brought a gun to school and incidents of sexual assault contributed to a poor climate at the school, Scott said and escalated tensions between teachers and administrators over accountability for students behavior.

Scott said a shortage of substitute teachers added another layer of tensions in the school building. The only option for principals when a substitute is unavailable is to put the students in other classrooms. "Too often I've had 40 students in a classroom where I was assigned to teach 19 special education kindergarten students," Scott said.

She is now suspended and on administrative leave for not following proper channels of communication.

The Gary school district has allocations for 45 substitute teachers, Carter said, but has only been able to find 19 subs to fill the slots.

Carter's role and those of other members on the GCSC Advisory Board have been compromised by the district's emergency manager, she said. "We have to get permission to even visit a school."

When the advisory board looked into the qualifications of a new hire to fill the chief financial officer position, Carter said the emergency manager changed the rules. "He hired a person with only 62 college credit hours for a position that required a masters degree, 5 years accounting, and a CPA license. After we asked questions, the emergency manager went back and changed the job qualifications."

Carter also said, "Allegedly, there is a dean referring students to his personal counseling service."

The Gary city council has not completely stepped away from intervening in school district matters. This week it revived a 2019 council resolution asking the state to return the Gary school district to local control and forgive $43.4 million dollars in state common school loans to the district.

Mayor Jerome Prince recently said he would veto the ordinance if the city council passed it. The city administration is behind Senate Bill 416, sponsored by State Senator Eddie Melton, that also seeks debt forgiveness but would continue with state control of the Gary school district.

SB 416 would allow the school district to keep the $500,000 it currently returns to the state each month in loan repayments over a 10-year period. The district will keep 100% of the monthly repayments for years 2021-2023; 75% for years 2024-2026; and 50% of the repayments in years 2027-2030.

The city council resolution has its origins in a proposal developed by the West Side Leadership Academy PTSA. Language in both proposals would demolish vacant schools and repair the remaining schools.

The city council proposal asks for funds to create a museum district that would include Roosevelt High School and the Jackson Family Home, 2300 Jackson Street.

Robert L. Coleman, President of West Side PTSA said, "It is a sad day in our history when this type of resolution would trigger a veto from the Mayor. The data shows, under MGT and the Emergency Manager, test scores have decreased, graduation rates have plummeted, and elementary schools and middle schools that were once passing are now all at F’s."

Coleman is also a member of the GCSC Advisory Board.

Atty. Shelice Tolbert swears in Robert Coleman as a new member of the Gary Community School Corp. Advisory Board

Story Posted:02/09/2020

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