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Forum at IUN focuses on improving schools

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilsissued statement Thursday supporting IllianExpressway. | Post-Tribune File Photo

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson issued a statement Thursday supporting the Illiana Expressway. | Post-Tribune File Photo

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Updated: June 24, 2014 6:18AM



GARY — Students and senators, teachers and transportation experts all can help improve education in Gary and other areas of Northwest Indiana, planners emphasized Thursday during a public forum at Indiana University Northwest.

The event was part of a partnership program involving the National League of Cities and U.S. Department of Education to increase dialogue and generate ideas on education in communities nationwide.

Thursday’s forum drew educators, parents, business leaders, state legislators, local school board members and more to participate in devising ideas on how to improve Gary students’ academic performance.

After hearing from several speakers, the attendees broke into groups to discuss improvements in areas such as mentoring, transportation, early education and after-school programs.

The ideas from those sessions were then presented to the group in the form of suggestions to generate more resources to help children succeed in school.

“It’s making sure (children) have the education they need so they can have opportunity” after school, said Indiana schools Supt. Glenda Ritz, who participated with Education Department staff members. “We have work to do for the future of our children.”

Ellen Szarletta, director of the Center of Urban and Regional Excellence at IUN and a forum organizer, said the goal of the program was to generate practical ideas that can be implemented both in and out of school.

“It’s a conversation to begin the process of identifying a way to build a framework for different stakeholders to build up the youth in Gary and surrounding areas,” she said. “Working together we’ll work better.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she wanted to host the forum after attending a National League of Cities meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year and a meeting locally six weeks ago.

NIPSCO manager and forum organizer Eddie Melton said the forum hopefully will lead to a program in Gary such as Cincinnati’s Strive Partnership, which was launched in 2006. In five years, that program saw a 9 percent increase in kindergartners’ readiness and double-digit increases in the percentage of high school graduates and students enrolling in college.

State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said he planned to take some of the more promising ideas back to Indianapolis.

“It’s a learning process for me, that I have the right attitude in that I’m really listening to the people I serve,” Mrvan said. “I’m really looking for something I can use in the state Legislature.”



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