INDIANAPOLIS — Vacancies among the powerless trustees of the Gary Community School Corp. would be filled by the remaining board members, and not the district's emergency manager, under a change made Wednesday to House Bill 1315.
The Indiana House, on an unrecorded voice vote, agreed to restore the School Board's traditional authority to fill vacancies caused by the death or resignation of an elected board member.
In January, Emergency Manager Peggy Hinckley claimed the 2017 law giving her near-total control of the financially distressed school district empowered her to appoint a replacement for Rosie Washington, the former School Board president who resigned Dec. 31.
State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said Hinckley is correct that under Senate Enrolled Act 567 she has complete authority over the district's academics and finances.
However, he said allowing the School Board to fill vacancies on its own, and to continue designating its officers, will not imperil Hinckley's ability to run the district because the underlying legislation makes the Gary School Board nothing more than an advisory council limited to one public meeting per quarter.
The House is expected to vote Thursday on whether to advance that measure to the Senate.
The state took over Gary's schools last summer and appointed an emergency manager to run them after the School Board consistently overspent its revenue and racked up more than $100 million in debt.