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Top leaders leave Gary’s Thea Bowman charter school

Updated: August 11, 2014 1:55PM



GARY — With one year left on its charter with Ball State University, three key school leaders have left the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy.

The charter school’s first principal, Gwen Adell, resigned from her post as chief administrative officer last month. Her contract expired June 30. Michael Bakalis, president and CEO of American Quality Schools in Chicago, which operates Thea Bowman, said Adell’s position won’t be filled.

Adell, a former Merrillville educator, was Thea Bowman’s first principal when it opened in 2003.

Bakalis declined to say if Adell’s contract was not being renewed. “We don’t talk publicly about this,” he said. “There’s no reason to renew a contract when somebody resigns.”

One of the city’s largest charters with 1,450 students, Thea Bowman has two campuses, a secondary school at 3401 W. 5th Ave. and an elementary school at 975 W. 6th Ave., the school’s original location.

Rubye James, who served as principal at the high school/junior high, resigned along with Alethea Fontleroy, principal at the elementary/middle school campus.

Bakalis said principal candidates are being interviewed and assistant principals were leading the schools in the interim. The 2014-15 school year begins Aug. 14. Bakalis said he hopes to have new principals hired by Aug. 1.

Academically, Thea Bowman has struggled in recent years and it received a grade of “D” in 2012-13. It received a “C” in two previous years. The school’s charter with Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools expires June 30, 2015. Its renewal application is due in October.

“I wasn’t particularly happy with the academic performance, that’s for sure,” Bakalis said. “It’s got to be better and it will be better.”

He said the new principals will have time to evaluate staff. “I can’t promise there won’t be any changes,” he said.

In 2001, former Gary Mayor Thomas Barnes and other local leaders established the nonprofit Drexel Foundation that secured the Thea Bowman charter.

The Drexel Foundation board hired American Quality Schools to manage the school.



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