GARY  — The Gary School Board laid off five administrators during a special meeting Saturday.

The urban school district is struggling with a deficit of nearly $40 million.

The administrators who will be laid off effective when their contracts end June 30 are Watson Boys Academy Principal William Roberts; Dwayne Belle, assistant principal at Beveridge Elementary School; Earl Smith Jr., a dean at the Gary New Tech, and Dwight Pointer and Sharmayne McKinley, school transformation specialists at Williams Annex, the former Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School.

Gary school spokeswoman Charmella Greer said the layoffs are the result of the school's budget problems and declining enrollment. The current enrollment is 6,395 students. She said Pointer and McKinley were paid out of a grant which ended.

She said the layoffs will save the district between $600,000 to $700,000 including salary and fringe benefits.

As a result of working with the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board, the school district had to choose a financial consultant.

Consultant Jack Martin, with Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers P.C. Certified Public Accountants and Consultants of Detroit, is working with the district to develop a financial plan to reduce and eliminate the district's debt.

Martin said in October the school district is overstaffed when one considers the declining enrollment. He said it is a struggle every two weeks to make payroll and benefits.

It is likely that teachers will be next. By law teachers must be notified of a layoff between May 1 and July 1, Greer said.

She said 82 teachers have submitted notice they will retire at the end of the school year.

"That's unusual," she said. "We usually get a rush of people by May. We don't usually have that many by February."

The district could also close additional school buildings, including the Watson Boys Academy which has 130 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Those students could be combined with those in another building.

The Gary Community School Corp. is facing challenges — financially and academically. It is receiving assistance from the Distressed Unit Appeals Board, and it received a $15 million no-interest loan from the Common School fund to help pay critical vendors.

Declaring the district "high risk" a couple of years ago, the state Department of Education placed a representative in the school system to oversee federal spending.

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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.