Dr. Peggy Hinckley and Dr. Pete Morikus at Thursday's press conference

Dr. Hinckley calls it quits as emergency manager

Contributed By:The 411 News

Former Griffith public schools superintendent Morikis is replacement

Sixteen months after taking the role of emergency manager in the state-run Gary school district, Dr. Peggy Hinckley announced her retirement.

Her retirement and the introduction of Dr. Peter Morikis, the next emergency manager, came Thursday afternoon during a brief press conference at the school district’s administrative office. Also at the press conference were DUAB Executive Director Courtney Schaafsma and Eric Parish of MGT Consulting. The DUAB represents the state of Indiana in the school district’s operation and MGT Consulting is Dr. Hinckley’s partner in managing the district.

Legislation in 2017 authorizing the state takeover gave academic and financial control of the Gary Community School Corporation to the emergency manager. August 1, 2017 was the official start date of Dr. Hinckley and her team.

The district’s then superintendent Dr. Cheryl Pruitt was assigned a subordinate role as administrator at the Gary Career Center. Within a few months of the start of the 2017-18 school year, Dr. Pruitt resigned. The duties of the Gary Board of School Trustees were removed as financial overseer. In 2018, legislation was enacted permitting the school board to meet only 4 times a year.

Gary school’s declining number of students and large number of schools were the main reasons for the the school corporation’s near bankruptcy status that caused the state takeover.

One of her first actions, Hinckley guaranteed school staff their bi-weekly salaries were safe and returned payrolls to direct deposits. A plan was defined to return the district to financial stability that included closing schools and cutting staff.

Within a few months, the emergency manager announced Gary only needed 1 high school. She said the district didn’t have enough high school students to keep both West Side and Wirt-Emerson Visual & Performing Arts open. The decision came to combine all high school students into West Side and Wirt-Emerson wouldn’t reopen for the 2018-19 school year.

During the summer of 2018, Dr. Hinckley outsourced the district’s maintenance, custodial, and grounds employees.

Another school, Bethune Early Childhood Learning Center is now being discussed for closure.

Dr. Hinckley said there were a few projects to complete before year’s end. Getting purchase agreements signed on five school buildings sold is one. Likely among the projects are finalizing a new contract with the Gary Teachers Union. And making a decision on whether a referendum will be on the 2019 ballot for a property tax increase to help fund schools.

Dr. Hinckley didn’t give a specific reason for her retirement now, but said it was a discussion over several months. The decision wasn’t easy, she said. “I have become attached to the district, my staff. When you work day and night trying to save something … you’re in this mission. It was really hard for me.”

Dr. Morikis, 57, is coming out of retirement after 14 years as superintendent of the Griffith public school district. His term there ended in February 2018.

Glen Eva Dunham, the president of the Gary Teachers Union said she was surprised by Dr. Hinckley’s leaving. “I wish Dr. Hinckley well and I’m hoping for a smooth transition with Dr. Morikis. Looking forward, we still want what’s best for our children.”

In the coming weeks, Dr. Morikis will meet with principals, teachers, and staff members. Parents, students and community members are invited to community dialogs with Dr. Morikis and the emergency management team on Wednesday, November 28 at 5 p.m. at Gary Middle School, 201 Parke Street; and Thursday, November 29 at 5 p.m. at Williams Elementary School, 1320 E. 19th Avenue.

Dr. Hinckley said she will stay on through the end of the semester in December.

Story Posted:11/08/2018

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