The state took a radical step when it decided to take over seven schools, including Gary's Roosevelt Technical and Career Academy, and turn them over to management companies to operate them as turnaround school operators.
The move was the result of Indiana’s school accountability law, Public Law 221 passed in 1999, which measures schools’ progress and performance, placing schools into five categories — the lowest being academic probation. Schools on academic probation for six consecutive years face state intervention to turn the school around. Roosevelt was one of those schools.
Roosevelt posted dismal scores for 2012 with 10.4 percent of all students in seventh- and eighth-grade passing both the English/language arts and math portions of the ISTEP-Plus. That's compared with 12.9 percent last year.
The Indiana Department of Education tapped Tennessee-based EdisonLearning, a for-profit education management company, to operate Roosevelt. EdisonLearning spent last school year evaluating the school and developing a turnaround plan. It signed a contract with the state last month to operate the school for the next four years.
A week before school is scheduled to start Wednesday, 680 students have been registered to attend the school. EdisonLearning officials had hoped to open with at least 750 students in grades seven through 12 and was registering students through the opening of school.
"We expect the students who enroll at Roosevelt will walk into a different school climate and school culture based on the highest expectations and highest level of student performance and achievement," said Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who has overhauled education in the last couple of years.
"We have every confidence in the world that EdisonLearning is positioning themselves to do just that when school opens," Bennett said.
Retired Gary Roosevelt school Secretary JoAnn Sams hopes EdisonLearning will be able to return the school to its former glory, graduating students who are academically ready and able to enter a global society.
A 1955 Roosevelt graduate, Sams said her daughters graduated from the high school in 1977 and 1981, respectively, and both earned degrees from Purdue University.
"I would like to see Roosevelt focus on academics and discipline. That's very important. They need to get the PTA going and focus on working together," she said.
EdisonLearning has hired more than 35 teachers, 12 of whom are from Gary, two who formerly worked in the Gary Community School Corp. and three who are Roosevelt alumni.
New Roosevelt Principal Terrance Little said the school will focus on academics and behavior, addressing behavior early on.
"Each student will have a learning coach and will work with that coach in the first 30 minutes of class, developing and enhancing a student's social and emotional skills," Little said.
Little also cleared up rumors regarding extracurricular activities and sports, saying the school, now known as Roosevelt College and Career Academy, will offer a "full scope of extracurricular activities" and every sport that was offered last school year.
In addition, EdisonLearning's Vanessa Ronketto said there would be a governing board to oversee Roosevelt, similar to a school board.
Todd McIntire, EdisonLearning vice president of operations, will be president of the board. The five-member board also will include members of the community and parents.