With the Gary (Ind.) school district under state control, the Gary School Board has held its final meeting.
The Gary Post-Tribune reports that next month, the board becomes an unpaid “advisory” unit, allowed to meet four times a year. Its next meeting is Sept. 12.
Peggy Hinckley, the school district's emergency manager, won’t have to meet with the advisory board. Instead, she is required to hold monthly public meetings to update citizens on school business.
The Indiana legislature passed laws in 2017 and 2018 that leaves Gary citizens without representation by a school board.
The Gary Community School Corp. landed in distressed status after failing to pay its debts. It ran up an accumulated debt of more than $100 million and a monthly deficit of more than $18 million.
State officials stepped in with a bailout and offered loans that enabled the district to make payroll. It installed an emergency manager with orders to reduce staff and buildings so that they were more in line with enrollment.
Enrollment in Gary schools has fallen from 16,000 in 2005 to about 5,200 in 2017-18, the district says.
Hinckley’s has outsourced custodial service to Alpha Building Maintenance which is projected to save the district about $907,000. The district withdrew from a contract with custodians in Service Employees International Union Local 73.
Hinckley also says district secretaries will have to reapply for their jobs. She says secretaries who are retained must be proficient in technology.
“We can’t award positions on seniority," Hinckley says. "We need people to use job skills for today."
Once Hinckley finished with her report, she and her team left the board meeting as the public comment period began. That drew criticism from union members in the audience and board members.
In signing off, board members sympathized with union members, but one board member said the cuts were necessary.
“No one wants to be the bad guy,” says Darling Pleasant. “But we cannot continue at the pace we are going.”