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Roosevelt water bill not paid; Gary Schools, EdisonLearning clash over who’s responsible

Updated: June 24, 2014 8:14PM



GARY — Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy has no water, but who’s responsible for the bill not getting paid is a source of contention between EdisonLearning and the Gary Community School Corporation.

Thirty-five students were sent home from the school Monday as a result of the shut-off, EdisonLearning Spokesperson Michael Serpe said. Many of them were seniors preparing for their end-of-course assessment test to get their diplomas.

Gary Community Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt insisted the school corporation isn’t responsible for the payments, saying the Knoxville, Tennessee-based education services provider receives an allocation from the state based on number of students for Roosevelt operations just as GCSC does.

The first year of the takeover, Pruitt said Roosevelt received close to $1 million to evaluate the building’s condition and then keep up with wear-and-tear.

When asked on what they could be spending the allocation, Pruitt said, “Good question.”

“If we were their landlord, would we be expected to pay all utilities without some sort of agreement? Maybe, but they’re not our tenant,” Pruitt said.

Serpe disagreed sharply with that assessment, saying EdisonLearning has the state to prove it.

“We do not receive an allocation by the state, and part of the contract we entered with state says that Roosevelt belongs to (GCSC),” Serpe said. “We were hired to provide academic services, and in any school turnaround situation, the district is well-aware of their responsibilities.”

Serpe also questioned that if it really were Roosevelt’s responsibility, why did GCSC never tell the school.

“We have never received a utility bill, and now, the water’s shut off, but it’s not turned off at any of the other schools?” he said. “It’s the first day of summer vacation, and all of a sudden the water’s shut off?

“We happen to know that the majority of our bills haven’t been paid since before Edison came in three years ago.”

And if the water remains shut off for too long, the air conditioning, which Serpe said is water-based, could be badly affected. After the trouble Roosevelt had with its heating system during the winter, that would be too much.

“It’s been an incredible challenge just to function (in Roosevelt); it’s never been a clear collaboration. And who’s getting harmed? The students,” Serpe said. “They lost nearly three weeks of instruction over the heating issues.”

Pruitt said that the state had contacted her, and she will work to find “alternative accommodations” for the students while the situation is handled. Serpe said on EdisonLearning’s end, the state has extended the deadline for students to finish their tests by the end of July, although it hopes to have the students back at Roosevelt by Wednesday.



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