Rena Morales, left, and Colleen Sanchez

Hammond cuts school custodians, paraprofessionals

Contributed By: The 411 News

Board will vote on school consolidations/closures at next meeting

“Ninety percent of our paraprofessionals in the Language Development Program were cut, that’s 22 jobs,” Colleen Sanchez told an anxious crowd gathered in the community room at the Hammond Public Library Thursday night.

The school district hasn’t held a public board meeting since March 19th when it voted to approve a corrective action plan to address the district’s finances. The plan includes reducing the number of employees and possibly closure of some schools.

Shannon Sevin, a Hammond parent organized Thursday night’s meeting after news spread through the community that some school staff had received termination letters.

Sanchez works in the Language Development Program at Washington Irving Elementary School and is one of the 22. Her co-worker at Irving, Rena Morales and Bianca Carrillo, in the language program at Burns-Hicks Elementary, were also terminated.

Francisco Angel, a custodian at Lincoln Elementary, said he also had been terminated.

All are in the first round of cuts the district says is needed to help balance the budget. They received letters that their last day is Friday, April 19th. “It is expected that more than 200 certified and noncertified staff will be impacted by the reduction in force,” said Donna Petraits, the district’s public relations consultant.

The next school board meeting is Tuesday, April 23, where the board will present more of its corrective action plan.

School board member Kelly Spencer was at Thursday’s meeting at the library. She said school consolidation plans will be voted on at the April 23rd board meeting.

School corporations’ finances are monitored by Indiana’s Distressed Unit Appeal Board, the agency that took control of the Gary Community School Corp. after that district couldn’t pay its bills. In August 2023, Hammond’s school district learned it was on the DUAB’s watch list. When the November referendum failed, the DUAB ordered the district to submit within 90 days a corrective action plan to improve its finances.

School board member Carlotta Blake-King also attended Thursday’s meeting. “It’s all about the money. DUAB didn’t direct us to do anything. They only told us to balance the budget,” Blake-King said.

Sevin asked for parents to become more involved. “Teachers have been fighting for their jobs. Parents need to step up and voice their concerns.”

Story Posted:04/19/2024

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