MARK KIESLING: Gary Roosevelt takeover can be a winning situation

2011-08-29T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Gary Roosevelt takeover can be a winning situation nwitimes.com
August 29, 2011 12:00 am

Is this the beginning of the end or the start of a trend?

Indiana is taking over the Gary Roosevelt Career and Technical Academy, which in polite circles is known as "troubled" but which in reality is circling the drain.

The state has recommended that EdisonLearning (yes, that's one word) take over the school, which is one of seven Indiana schools on probation.

EdisonLearning is owned by a private equity firm, and this will mark the first time in state history a school has been taken over by the state, although discussions are under way regarding the remaining six schools, which are all in Indianapolis.

Well, Gary finally leads Indianapolis in something, although I am not sure how much of an honor that is.

"No one wants to be in this position, but now it's time to look forward," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said.

No, not the guy who sang, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," but thanks for asking.

While some Gary political leaders have been openly skeptical of the move, Bennett said the easy way out would have been to do nothing or just shut the school altogether.

It will be interesting to see what EdisonLearning will be able to do once Roosevelt is separated politically and financially from Gary Community School Corp.

One fear expressed by the Gary politicos is that the move will not succeed, but another is that it will -- bringing with it questions about the efficiency of the Gary school corporation itself.

Right now, the school corporation is willing to work with EdisonLearning to keep Roosevelt afloat.

"I hope it will be a collaboration," said Gary's school superintendent, Myrtle Campbell. "I know of some corporations where Edison is working. It will be critical that they work with us.

"I am concerned about the first year (2012-13)," she said. "If the school makes gains, will we get credit for it, or will Edison get credit for it?"

Is this really a question that needs to be asked by a person in charge of making sure that Gary students get the best education they can?

Who cares who gets the credit? If the school shows marked improvement, I'd guess Edison will get the credit. It's like a company going into receivership -- if a new owner turns it around, it gets the credit.

However, if Roosevelt continues its slide toward oblivion (can you see another Froebel, for example?), will Edison get the blame, or will the Gary school corporation? Edison will, or at least it should.

Edison has a monumental task in front of it. The state Board of Education is expected to vote today on the recommendations.

If anyone can turn the school around, no matter how slowly, it's the kids who win.

Isn't that what it's supposed to be about, anyhow?

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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