Panel hears Gary school's plan to end state takeover

By The Associated Press

GARY — Representatives of the debt-plagued Gary Community School Corp. have presented an Indiana panel with a three-year plan for ending the state’s takeover of the northwestern Indiana school district.

Indiana's Distressed Unit Appeal Board, the state entity responsible for overseeing Indiana's takeover of troubled school districts, heard the plan from the Gary district’s turnaround partner during a Thursday virtual public webinar.

MGT Consulting was contracted by the state in 2017 to handle the district's financial and academic transformation after years of mounting debt and failing state performance rankings led to the state intervention, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

Members of the turnaround team told the board they have completed the first stage of their plan and are now laying the groundwork for a second stage that will aim to create sustainability through improved academics, engagement, operations and finances. The plan's third stage would signal the end of district's distressed unit status.

Interim Emergency Manager Paige McNulty touted academic approaches currently being implemented, including personalized high school counseling and increased remediation for seniors.

The district's operational and fiscal goals include the phase-in of a 1-to-1 student technology plan this summer, closing offers on abandoned school buildings and investing in building and grounds repairs in occupied buildings.

The district’s overall debt has decreased from a total of $104 million in June 2017 to $84 million today, officials said.

“Academics is the slowest to turn,” said Eric Parish, a vice president with MGT Consulting. “It’s not reflective of where we want to be. It’s a process.”

A return of local control of the Gary school district is contingent upon school leaders achieving and maintaining fiscal solvency for at least two years, as spelled out by the state’s takeover law.

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