INDIANAPOLIS — The Gary Community School Corp. no longer is the only financially troubled school district to be taken over by the state and operated by an emergency manager in lieu of its locally elected school board.
On Wednesday, the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board voted 5-0 to designate Muncie Community Schools in east-central Indiana as a distressed political subdivision beginning Jan. 1.
DUAB has been providing special assistance to Muncie schools since June due to the district's declining enrollment and corresponding state funding drop, as well as its significant debt burden.
Board members acknowledged that Muncie has made some progress toward financial stability.
But they concluded that direct state operation, through the Administrator Assistance emergency management firm, is needed to get the school district on a solid, long-term financial footing.
Meanwhile, DUAB separately approved the hiring of Leonard Moody, of Chicago, as the chief financial officer for the Gary Community School Corp. at a state-paid $100,000 annual salary and up to $10,000 in bonuses.
The Gary schools emergency manager, Peggy Hinckley, said Moody's experience in school finance at the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago State University has prepared him well to handle the "fiscal and operational challenges like those facing GCSC."
According to Indiana law, Moody will assist Hinckley and her Gary Schools Recovery team in carrying out the day-to-day financial operations of the school corporation.
The district has been without a CFO since 2015.
Its consistently unbalanced budget, and more than $100 million debt burden, prompted the Indiana General Assembly in April to supplant the local school board with an emergency manager who has broad powers to reduce spending and rewrite contracts.