Gary officials want to put brakes on charter schools, Merrillville seeking its first
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent September 26, 2012 11:42PM
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:26AM
GARY — As several Merrillville residents clamor for a charter school in that town, several Gary residents — including top Gary Community School Corp. administrators — don’t want another one.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and School Board President Darren Washington both spoke out against Premier High School, a 200-pupil charter high school geared toward at-risk students, for Gary during a Wednesday hearing sponsored by the Indiana Charter School Board at the Dubois Library. Pruitt kept her remarks brief.
“We have eight (charter schools) in the city. I do recommend that we not add any more,” Pruitt said.
Washington pointed out to ICSB Executive Director Claire Fiddian-Greenthat the school corporation has worked out a moratorium with Ball State University’s charter issuer and said the Gary district would like the opportunity to get its schools on track before allowing more into the city.
Richard Comer, president of Aspire Academy charter school, agreed, saying that the proliferation of charter schools could be construed as an attack on teachers’ rights.
“I’m not trying to stop competition for my school,” Comer said. “The public school system shouldn’t be further diluted.”
Supporters of the Heritage Institute of Arts and Technology in Merrillville, on the other hand, completely back what would be Merrillville’s first charter school.
“My daughter was one of the first people to attend the charter school at Ball State. She’s now a Purdue graduate in engineering,” said supporter David Charleston. “Out of her class, there are doctors, lawyers and other engineers, and they’re students who’re in demand.”
Terrance Morris said he believes in the proposed 550-student K-8 school because he grew up in a neighborhood between two schools, one that had the arts and another that did not. The differences were night and day.
“The kids who went to the school with art had less violence, less teen pregnancy and more graduates,” he said. “When you have the arts, kids are allowed to express themselves.”
HIAT founder Darlene Henderson said she was pleased at the turnout and feels confident she’ll receive the go-ahead from the ICSB.