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Peggy Hinckley

Peggy Hinckley, the state-appointed emergency manager for the Gary Community School Corp., spoke to the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board last month.

Dan Carden, The Times

GARY — The emergency manager for the Gary Community School Corp. will be required to appoint a new school board member.

That information was part of the monthly report emergency manager Peggy Hinckley presented to the Board of Trustees for the Gary schools during its meeting Thursday night.

Hinckley, who was appointed by the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board in August, leads a team of financial and academic experts from the MGT Consulting Group. The group was hired to balance the Gary district's budget, reduce its more than $100 million debt burden and make improvements that attract more students.

As required by Senate Enrolled Act 567, Hinckley has near-total authority to implement academic and financial changes, renegotiate contracts and run Gary's schools as she sees fit, subject only to informal review by a local advisory board and DUAB oversight.

Hinckley told board members she met with members of DUAB, the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana School Board Association to get direction regarding the school board seat left vacant when Gary 6th District board member Rosie Washington, who was serving as board president, resigned effective Dec. 31.

Normally, if a school board members resigns, the remaining members of the school board interview applicants, then vote on a replacement.

Hinckley said she was advised that as emergency manager she is required to appoint someone to the vacancy. The position will be advertised from today to Feb. 12, interviews will be held Feb. 21 and 27, and a new board member will be appointed at the March 13 Gary school board meeting.

In other business, Hinckley told board members that January marks the second consecutive month she has not had to ask the DUAB for a loan to make payroll and keep the financially strapped school district afloat.

In addition, Hinckley told the board that as a result of plumbing repairs at Wirt/Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy, the water and sanitation bills have gone down.

In July/August 2017, the school district paid $6,487 for water and $13,931 for sanitation, compared to October/November when the water bill was $921.67 and the sanitation bill was $1,700.

Prior to the repairs just days before school started, representatives from Hinckley's team toured several of the schools, including Wirt/Emerson, and found the high school roof was leaking in several areas, pouring water into the classrooms.

Hinckley told the board she has hired Leonard Moody as chief financial officer and Lucille Washington as chief academic officer through June 30 as required by the law.

The district had been without a chief financial officer for about three years. Hinckley said she and the team are working to deliver a viable structural deficit reduction plan by Jan. 31, and has already held two public meetings to gain input.


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.