posttrib
LABORIOUS 
Weather Updates

New student advisory council takes pride in Gary schools

Jheatc Robins(from left) Nathan MasTyonne Green Wirt EmersVisual Performing Arts Academy participate Superintendent Student Advisory Council event.  |

Jheatc Robinson (from left), Nathan Mason and Tyonne Green, of Wirt Emerson Visual Performing Arts Academy, participate in the Superintendent Student Advisory Council event. | Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 64185078
tmspicid: 23022763
fileheaderid: 11180498

Updated: May 1, 2014 6:59AM



A few students are speaking up — and not giving up — on the quality of education in Gary, despite the “high risk” designation it recently was tagged with by the Indiana Department of Education.

Gary Community School Corp. Supt. Cheryl Pruitt handpicked 16 students from the district’s three remaining high schools for the Superintendent Student Advisory Council (SSAC).

The roundtable discussion enabled administrators to directly listen and respond to student concerns, suggestions and perspectives. The group will meet regulary, though no schedule has been set up yet.

The agenda for the four-hour kickoff included topics such as academics, food service, school safety, community engagement, extracurricular activities and technology.

“One of our concerns are library facilities,” Wirt Emerson Visual Performing Arts Academy’s Tyonne Green said. “Most of the computers block multiple sites, even YouTube.”

Others expressed the need for Macintosh computers in design classes.

“Design classes definitely should not be done on paper,” Pruitt said. “If we’re going to offer a course, we need the corrects tools available.”

Technological concerns sparked much discussion among the group. Pruitt said some schools still are transitioning from fax machines to digital transmissions.

“This is a paradigm shift for Gary schools,” Pruitt said.

Meanwhile, the administration boasts that its Facebook page has reached 31 countries.

Malik Muhammad, a student manager for the food services company SodexoMagic, listened to concerns about the food service. Students criticized the cold bread, rude service and limited options.

“Some of these issues are quick fixes,” Muhammad said. “These particular changes will happen within a month.”

In order to best serve quality meals, he said, feedback on Sodexo’s performance is needed, a consideration of the budget, and nutrition must remain the priority.

Other issues plaguing Gary schools do not have quick fixes.

“Can we get our teachers to move toward using email?” asked Nathan Mason, of Wirt Emerson Visual Performing Arts Academy.

“It’s a learning curve for teachers,” Pruitt said.

The advisory council consisted of 10 girls and six boys, high achievers who pulled no punches. They shed light on curriculum issues that the superintendent was not previously made aware of.

“My school dropped Japanese from the curriculum,” Mason said. “So even though I’m in the top four of my graduating class, and I take (advanced placement) courses, that is preventing me from earning my honors diploma.”

Several others voiced the same concern and described how school counselors wouldn’t schedule 11th- and 12th-graders in ninth-grade Spanish.

As a result, several students excelling in honors courses are unable to earn honors diplomas.

The superintendent offered solutions and designated an email address for issues that required additional investigation.

Wirt Emerson Visual Performing Arts Academy students showed appreciation.

“This is good for morale,” Ni Avia Wilson said. “We have explanations now.”

Jheatc Robinson agreed.

“Every day, it seemed to be getting worse,” he said. “Because of discussions like this we’ll have a brighter future.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.