GARY | A private management company will continue to operate Gary's Roosevelt College and Career Academy this fall, state officials said.
A 1999 law allows the state to take over schools that don't improve students' standardized test scores after five consecutive years on probation. Roosevelt, which houses seventh through 12th grades, was among several schools taken over by the state two years ago.
The state appointed Tennessee-based EdisonLearning to operate facility.
While new Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she does not favor management companies taking over public schools, she has not made any changes. State spokesman Daniel Altman said Friday there are no plans to make changes in EdisonLearning's contract. He said the operator is expected to make a report in July.
State officials said they are looking for improved academic scores, improved graduation rates, a reduction in the rate of suspensions and expulsions and improved attendance at Roosevelt.
This past school year, EdisonLearning officials said they have faced challenges in turning around the school, including frustration with the Gary Community School Corp., which acts as landlord for the Roosevelt school building.
The building was closed for four days in early February because heating went down in parts of the building. EdisonLearning filed a lawsuit in Marion County against the Gary district, taking umbrage with building issues and incomplete student records.
Some of the issues have been resolved, but Vanessa Ronketto, an EdisonLearning official who also acts as Roosevelt superintendent, said the company continues to work with the state-appointed mediator on the operating contract.
While state End-of-Course Assessment scores for students in ninth and 10th grades have not yet been released to the public, Roosevelt Principal Donna Henry said there has been improvement.
EdisonLearning began with an enrollment of about 700 students in grades 7-12. It finished the year with an enrollment of 686 students. In a benchmark report to the state dated June 5, the company claimed enrollment is stable. It said for almost every new student who enrolls, an equal number of students transfer out. Of the 41 teachers, 38 are certified.
The report states there are a high number of special education students at the school, and attendance and truancy are "significant" challenges.
Of the 151 seniors, 64 graduated in June, 13 students received a waiver to graduate and Henry expects as many as 26 could graduate if they are able to complete classes this summer and pass the ECA tests. She anticipates the final number of graduates to be about 85, or about 56 percent of the senior class.
While there have been hundreds of suspensions, there have been no expulsions, Henry said. She also said an alternative program was established during the school year.
Lisa Johnson, a parent who is a member of the Roosevelt Board of Directors, said she will have three students enrolled at Roosevelt this fall.
Johnson, a 1987 Roosevelt grad, said EdisonLearning has incorporated a number of positive changes.
"I see more structure, and when I walk the halls the kids are not roaming around. They are in their classrooms," she said. "They have put programs in place to get a handle on the children, and they've made the school environment more conducive to learning."