Dunbar-Pulaski facing state intervention; hearing set Monday
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 August 7, 2014 5:25PM
WHEN: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Dunbar-Pulaski, 920 E. 19th Ave., Gary
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:24AM
GARY — The state is holding a public hearing Monday at Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School that could lead to state intervention of the failing school. A similar hearing at the recently shuttered Lew Wallace STEM Academy has been postponed.
The Dunbar-Pulaski hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. at the school, 920 E. 19th Ave. Parents and citizens are invited to offer their input on the schools to state officials.
Glenda Ritz, the state’s school chief, will chair the meeting that will include a data breakdown on the school in recent years. Gary Supt. Cheryl Pruitt will propose an intervention plan.
Gary Community School Corp. officials just learned of the hearing late Wednesday.
Both Dunbar-Pulaski and Lew Wallace schools are entering their sixth year of academic probation for poor test scores. A state accountability law requires the State Board of Education to take action in those cases.
In ISTEP scores released Monday, 15.6 percent of Dunbar-Pulaski students passed both math and English sections. At Lew Wallace, 28 percent passed both.
State Board of Education member Tony Walker, who represents the 1st District in Northwest Indiana, said earlier this week that he supported intervention at failing schools. Ritz, a Democrat who’s often at odds with GOP Gov. Mike Pence and the state school board, opposes state takeovers.
Following a 2011 public hearing, the state decided to take over Roosevelt High School under then-school chief Tony Bennett.
The state has several options when intervening in a failing school.
The most drastic is a state takeover, such as the case with Roosevelt, now operated by a private education management company, Edison Learning. State money that would have gone to the Gary district is now routed to Edison Learning for Roosevelt.
Other options include merging with a higher performing school, closing the school, or the state could make its own recommendations to improve the school.
The state requested the school district provide minutes from the meetings in which school board members vacillated on the school closings, Assistant Supt. Cordia Moore said.
The school board held its most in-depth discussion on the closings on May 31. In her initial recommendation, Pruitt recommended the district close Dunbar-Pulaski and turn Lew Wallace into a middle school and freshman academy.
Some Gary board members balked at closing Dunbar-Pulaski, citing its smaller size and lower utility costs. Pruitt changed her mind and then recommended closing Law Wallace, Glen Park’s lone high school. Pruitt also changed her recommendation on closing the Bailly Preparatory Academy and, instead, recommended closing Brunswick Elementary.
The district is struggling financially, barely surviving from payroll to payroll and trying to close a $23.7 million deficit. It faces high maintenance costs at all of its buildings and the district closed five schools in June, including Lew Wallace.