Vote to close Grissom Elementary leads to tears
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent March 25, 2013 9:58PM
Updated: March 26, 2013 9:31AM
GARY — In a vote no one expected to happen and to the dismay of several, Grissom Elementary School in Gary’s Black Oak section will close at the end of the school year.
The Lake Ridge School Board waited until the end of its Monday night meeting to cast the 4-1 vote, with Annette Wells, the board’s Black Oak representative, casting the lone “No” vote. Several audience members burst into tears once the vote was taken.
Wells herself couldn’t finish her prepared remarks because she was overcome with emotion.
School Board President Glenn Johnson told the crowd the decision was tough to make since the criteria the board was using to rate the schools was essentially even among Grissom, Hosford Park and Longfellow.
“I wish it would’ve been easier, but the members had to vote with their conscience,” he said. “For me, (his vote) went depending on the day.”
Johnson said that the data the board used to judge each school was passed out during forums the board held two weeks ago at each of the schools. Resident Kelley Thomas, who has a student at Hosford Park, said if it was, she never got it.
“I went to all three meetings, and I asked the question: What rubric would be used in determining which school would be closed,” Thomas said. “I’ve never seen anything.”
Dan Brugioni, president for the teacher’s union, told the board he hopes the days of one side of the Lake Ridge family being more important are over and that they can move forward. Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley took exception to his statement.
“We have all suffered, and instead of talking about what we didn’t do, the question you should’ve asked is, ‘What did the administration do?’” she said. “I didn’t get a raise until the teachers got a raise, and Lake Ridge teachers are the only teachers in the area who are getting raises this year. We put money aside for them.
“We’re all in this together. We’ve been fighting the hard fight, from (U.S. Secretary of Education) Arne Duncan on down to anyone who would listen. I’m still looking for that glimmer of hope, and I’ve had a person give us that glimmer, but the General Assembly doesn’t end until May.”
Johnson said the vote had to be taken before the board’s April meeting in order to give teacher who may be RIF’ed enough notice.
Johnson-Shirley said the school needed to see how many teachers are retiring district wide but that she was reasonably confident the majority of teachers at Grissom would be absorbed.