EdisonLearning makes transition into Gary’s Roosevelt
By Carole Carlson email@example.com | 648-3154 July 15, 2012 6:38PM
Jarrett Reynolds (left) and Diona Anderson push computers down the hall at Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary, Ind. Wednesday July 11, 2012. Cleanup and organizing efforts were underway inside the school which is now run by EdisonLearning. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:12AM
GARY — Temporary workers filled the hallways of the Roosevelt College and Career Center last week, moving old computers, maps and books to new destinations.
After nearly a one-year transition period, the Gary Community School Corp. has relinquished control and the school’s keys to EdisonLearning Inc., a for-profit education management company hired by the Indiana Department of Education to operate Roosevelt.
The school is one of five taken over by the state after years of poor achievement.
The state is hoping EdisonLearning can accomplish what the Gary school district couldn’t — resurrecting academics at the historic school revered by many in the community.
First though, EdisonLearning wants to upgrade the school environment.
“If we’re talking about a turnaround and kids see the same thing they saw on the last day of school, we’ve lost,” new Roosevelt Principal Terrance Little told the State Board of Education last month.
“We want to just get the building looking like we care and we mean what we say, and it’s a new day.”
Sprucing up the building that will house students in grades seven to 12 is a collaboration between the district and EdisonLearning.
EdisonLearning officials were greeted by broken handrails, ramps and crumbling steps, open drains in the floor, missing ceiling tiles throughout the school, some broken bathrooms and missing fire extinguishers. Graffiti covered lockers and some had been burned. A metal detector at the entrance had been removed.
Todd McIntire, senior vice president for operations, said the elevator didn’t work and the swimming pool and diving well held water that hadn’t been filtered since last spring.
McIntire said workers found fire extinguishers in a custodian’s closet.
“There are a number of issues with safety systems — such as alarm pulls that haven’t been updated. Part of our plan is to get a full inventory.”
New Gary Community Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt visited the school last week when EdisonLearning got the keys.
“I think it’s been a productive relationship,” said McIntire. “We’ve met with her twice since then and have another meeting this week. We’re very pleased with our work with her, she’s been very responsive.”
McIntire said an architect reviewed the building, identifying deficiencies, and he’s awaiting a response from the school district this week.
“We do have a good working relationship right now, we’ll meet this coming Monday,” said Pruitt. “A lot of items have been resolved. Some of those purchase orders will go in with rest of the schools.”
Pruitt said pool repairs are nearly complete and the elevator is being fixed.
EdisonLearning will replace the lighting in the hallways and install new lockers.
Meanwhile, EdisonLearning is still trying to access student records that had been removed from the building.
“The issue of records was in dispute when we took occupancy,” said McIntire. “The state has sent memos to the district informing them they’re required to provide records of students enrolled at Roosevelt. They haven’t agreed.”
On the advice of its attorneys, Pruitt said the district is waiting for EdisonLearning’s contract to be finalized before releasing student records. “We’re not holding them, if a parent comes in and wants to withdraw, we give it to them. It’s not like we’re being defiant. Attorneys are working to resolve some of those issues.”
So far, more than 500 students have registered for classes that begin next month.
Mary Hampton brought her daughter, Khaliah Willis, 14, to register last week. “It seems like it will be a good school,” Hampton said. Her daughter had attended the Ambassador Academy, a K-12 private school.
Khaliah received a T-shirt and a yard sign after she registered.
“I’m looking forward to learning,” she said.