I am excited about the passion and dedication I have seen, the work we have already accomplished, and the plans we are creating for the future of students attending Gary Community Schools.
In 90 days, creative ways to deal with a $23 million shortfall were identified; our Special Education Department began coming into compliance with Indiana Department of Education requirements; and our student transportation is under control.
The tasks set before us are still great, but the courageous steps we are taking to realize our goals are greater.
At the onset of my tenure, the administration had to take a candid assessment of where we were in order to properly project where we are going, at the same time keeping in mind trending statistics in our city that impact education.
At the pinnacle of our success, the city had 100,000 residents and a steel mill that was one of the largest producers of steel in North America. Gary Community Schools had 40 buildings, more than 20,000 students, and a curriculum called work-study-play that made this district the best in the country.
Today, the city has nearly 20 percent fewer residents and fewer jobs. There are 17 schools and nearly 9,000 students that parents, business leaders and community stakeholders are counting on us to educate. These sobering statistics let us know that things must change. The good news is that our district has the right team in place and the courage to do it.
Change in the Gary Community Schools could mean the implementation of a five-year high school where students would spend the extra year earning an associate’s degree or college credits to be counted toward a bachelor’s degree, all before high school graduation.
Change could also mean launching an iSchool. Technology has already revolutionized the way we shop, socialize and play; why not improve the way we learn?
Moving forward, we will begin hosting strategic planning meetings to discuss the needs of Gary Community School Corp. and lay out the road map necessary to help us take back our place as one of the best performing school districts in the nation.
We have a saying that rings throughout our district: “Doing what is best for students today, tomorrow, every day.” Sounds simplistic, but it serves as a constant reminder that we have accepted a charge to help every student attain a high quality education.
As we begin to make changes, I believe our students will graduate equipped to embark upon ventures in higher education or compete for gainful employment in the workforce.