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Dr. Yvonne Stokes, right, chats with Nikki Byrd and Ron Ostojic

Gary schools name Yvonne Stokes as next superintendent

Contributed By: The 411 News

Final step ending 7-year state takeover and return of district to local control

The new superintendent for Gary’s public school district was introduced Friday afternoon at a special meeting of the district’s Board of School Trustees.

By a unanimous board vote, Dr. Yvonne Stokes will officially take the helm of the Gary Community School Corporation on July 1. That date also signals the end of the 7-year state takeover of the district and its return to local control.

The new leader of the district served as superintendent for the Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Fishers, IN from July 2021 to September 2023. She was Assistant Superintendent for the School Town of Munster from July 2017 to June 2021.

Stokes’ career in education started in the Fort Wayne Community Schools, where she spent 10 years, from 1997 to 2007 as a teacher.

Stokes’ 3-year contract has a base annual salary of $215,000 with a yearly percentage increase equal to that provided to GCSC teachers.

“Our job for this year was to hire a superintendent. The job took longer than I thought,” said Michael Suggs, school board president.

The seating of the district’s new school board on July 1, 2023 was the first step to end state takeover, as defined by Senate Enrolled Act 327 of the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly. The board’s sole mission to complete the process was to have a district superintendent in place by July 1, 2024 for the 2024-25 school year.

“I had wanted this done by January 1. Well, it didn't work out that way, but I’m thankful that the plan has turned out the way that it has,” Suggs said

It was not until January that the board announced the search for a superintendent would begin and that it had hired a consulting firm to help with the search. The board invited public participation in the search with online surveys and focus groups.

As months passed, the school board routinely faced criticisms at its monthly meetings from a public anxious to see who would be appointed and when. Some claimed the board lacked transparency by not naming the candidates being interviewed.

“We wanted to do a thorough process,” said board member and search committee chair Danita Johnson-Woods. “The consulting team got the job posted and did initial screening on 38 applicants. They recommended a good number of candidates for us to look at.”

“After interviewing that first group, we narrowed the selection down to second interviews. We also brought the final candidates in to meet with some key stakeholders in the community, the mayor being one of them,” Johnson-Woods said. “That stuff takes time. I wanted to see how a person operates in not just interview settings, but in real life situations. I wanted to see how they interact with people.”

Board member Glenn Johnson has known Stokes for the last 10 years. “When I was on the Lake Ridge school board, she was the Assistant Superintendent of Munster. We worked together as members of the Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education.”

Also, Johnson said, “We were looking to hire her to replace Dr. Shirley in Lake Ridge, when Dr. Shirley was thinking about retirement.”

Johnson and Stokes are members of the National Alliance of Black School Educators and Stokes is president of the Indiana chapter.

“Before I joined the Gary school board in January, I encouraged Stokes to apply for the position,” Johnson said.

In her brief acceptance speech, Dr. Stokes asked the community for support. “I can't do this job by myself. It takes you, it takes me, it takes all of us. Look my track record up if you want to. I am not the answer to everything. But what I can tell you is that any district that I’ve been in, that district has always been better.”

The district will hold a community reception for Dr. Stokes at 6pm Tuesday, June 11 at the Career Center. “Dr. Stokes will make a presentation on education and set expectations for us. It’s an opportunity for everyone to have a chance to talk with the board as well as the superintendent,” board president Suggs said.

Story Posted:06/08/2024

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